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How Tech Titans Weave Stories that Compel Us

In this article, we dive into the communication styles of tech titans, by taking a close look at Bezos's open letters, Musk's dynamic tweets and Jobs's emotionally charged product presentations.


John Doe

Published on

December 28, 2023

Industry leaders grapple with multifaceted challenges in managing communications with the media and the public. Striking a balance between transparency and confidentiality, navigating crises, and addressing diverse stakeholder expectations pose ongoing complexities. In a rapidly evolving media landscape, leaders also require nimbleness and strategic acumen to maintain a public opinion of credibility and trust. 

A reflective approach – let every word build trust

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is the ambassador of “clear communication” in the global tech ecosystem. Under his leadership, Amazon has set a high standard for transparency and effectiveness in communication.

This is exemplified by his PR FAQ template, widely adopted by business leaders worldwide for launching new initiatives. An even more significant contribution from Jeff Bezos is his series of open letters, often released during critical times of crisis.

This includes his 10-page letter to Amazon employees in response to an NYT article on an alleged toxic culture at Amazon; his 2019 Medium blog post addressing an attempted extortion by the National Enquirer, and his pledge to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2040, a full ten years ahead of schedule.

Each of his letters forms a template for how business leaders can address scandals or highlight achievements. A close look reveals the following approach:

1.The Crux Comes First: Whether responding to a crisis or unveiling new initiatives, his letters clearly state the central topic in the first 100 words, followed by extensive explanations of the core topic. This helps engage the reader from the get-go.

2 Personal Touch and Authenticity: Known for adding a personal element to his letters, Bezos rarely misses an opportunity to share a personal experience relating to the topic, making his messages more relatable, and creating a strong bid to persuade the reader to adopt his perspective. 

3. Visionary and Forward-Looking: The Amazon founder’s communications extend beyond the present, often embodying a visionary outlook. He articulates his future vision, aligning current actions with long-term objectives, and framing challenges as steps towards broader achievements.

4. Call to Action and Positive Framing: Bezos’s messages typically end on a positive note, coupled with a call to action. He encourages participation or understanding, whether from employees, stakeholders, or the public, often inviting them to share in his optimistic vision or the positive aspects of Amazon's initiatives.

An act-now approach – successfully build a counter-narrative

We have business leaders who believe in writing long, well-crafted responses, and then there's Elon Musk.

Throughout his tenure as the founder of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and even post the Twitter acquisition, Musk has consistently believed in the power of social media, especially Twitter (now X), as his primary communication platform.

A look at his most engaged Tweets over the years reveals a simple formula for how he has changed the narrative:

  1. Anticipate controversy and tweet about it before the media has a chance to write.
  2. Respond to any criticism of the controversy as quickly as possible.
  3. Be unafraid to engage in disputes, even creating threads if necessary.
  4. Leverage his brand of offering ‘strong macro opinions’.
  5. Let people debate his reasoning versus the narrative of the original controversy.

In a recent controversy regarding Disney pulling off ad spending from Twitter due to their anti-Semitic views, Elon replied by pointing out how Disney had gotten their data wrong, comparing it to platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Musk’s reply to Bob Edger's (CEO, Disney) announcement about pulling off ad spending from x.com

An emotional approach – double down on the evocative power of your vision

Apple has always been renowned for selling a story rather than just electronics, a template that is widely applied in today's tech startup landscape as well.

In 1994, Steve Jobs, Apple Co-Founder & CEO famously remarked ”The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come… and Disney has a monopoly on the storyteller business. You know what? I am tired of that bullshit, I am going to be the next storyteller.

Analysing his 2007 presentation of the first-ever iPhone and other launch speeches, his formula can be broken down as follows:

  1. Start with a Premise and a Hook: Jobs began by capturing attention with a statement that something significant was about to be revealed, introducing his premise that occasionally a revolutionary product changes everything, setting the stage for the iPhone.
  2. Pose a Problem: He identified a problem with existing smartphones, emphasising their limitations and user unfriendliness.
  3. Create an Antagonist: In his narrative, the clunky existing smartphones and their manufacturers served as the 'antagonists' that hindered progress and user satisfaction.
  4. Explain the Solution: Jobs presented the iPhone as a multifunctional device (phone, music player, internet browser) that addressed the identified problems.
  5. Show, Don’t Tell: He utilised humour and extensive demonstrations to showcase the iPhone's features, rather than merely talking about them.
  6. Reinforce the Main Message: Jobs concluded by personalising the message, sharing his excitement, and reiterating Apple's history of creating revolutionary products

Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone at the Macworld Conference & Expo - San Francisco in 2007.

While Jobs, Bezos, and Musk are now universally recognised for their distinct styles of controlling the narrative, it's important to note that they developed these approaches over a longer period than just a few years. Each of their styles was also heavily influenced by their personalities and the industries in which they operated.

For instance, Amazon, being an operationally intensive business, relies on the trust of all its stakeholders. Hence, Bezos's serene approach to countering any controversy with detailed and thoughtful notes is well-suited to this context.

This suggests that most business leaders will likely employ a combination of all three approaches in their initial years and will ultimately develop their unique styles based on the industry, company vision, and personal traits.

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