How to approach your company’s messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Over the last few weeks, companies have reached out to me to help them urgently address their messaging. COVID-19 has rocked every aspect of life and has left marketing professionals uncertain on how best to move forward. The number one question I’m being asked is: “How do I strike the right tone during this crazy, unprecedented time?”

The answer is that, whether you’re a SaaS startup or a yoga studio, now is the time for more meaningful messaging. The world has changed. No one has time for BS. We’re all suddenly seeking connection, support and inspiration.

Here are a few…

Why messaging is painful for founders.

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Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

This is how founders have described their current messaging to me over the past few years:

“I get verbal diarrhea.”

“I just start vomiting features.”

“I feel constipated with it. I can’t get it out.”

No joke.

I’ve come to realize that their word choice is no coincidence. The struggle for founders to communicate what they’ve built is visceral. And it’s no wonder. You gave birth to an idea. A vision! It’s been inside you forever and now it’s time to communicate it to the outside world.

It’s hard. Like, really hard.

And it’s frustrating because you know what you’ve…

It’s not what you think.

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How do you simplify complex technology, so anyone can understand it?You may think it’s about dumbing down your technology so a 4th grader could grasp it. Or finding the perfect 3 words that sum up everything.

You can spend hours iterating on that stuff, and it still won’t simplify your message.

Here’s the secret to simpler product messaging: You must see your product through your customer’s eyes, not yours.

That means shifting your perspective away from your product features and towards your customers’ pains and motivations.

This exercise doesn’t feel natural to most startup founders…

Does it take too long to pitch your product or startup to people? If so, you’re not alone.

Almost every single founder I work with says it takes too long to explain their business to people, whether that’s a prospect or a potential investor.

They tell me they don’t know how to turn something so big into something small and digestible that gets people interested in their business.

Journalists face this challenge with every article they write: how to hook readers from the first sentence with a great lead.

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Photo by Hayden Walker on Unsplash

A “lead” is the all-important first sentence in a news story…

These truths will help to ease your mind

I work with a lot of tech founders launching brilliant products into the world. They all struggle with one thing: simplifying their technology.

We all know simple is better. Apple effectively taught that to the entire world through their products, packaging, and marketing.

And yet, as a founder of a complex technical product, you might feel freaked out over the concept of simplifying — or over-simplifying — your technology.

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Just breathe. It’s going to be ok.

It’s natural for founders to be shit-scared of simplifying their product.

You’re comfortable inside the weeds of your technology. You’ve been living there…

That’s the last thing people need to know.

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Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

I met a founder who told me prospects didn’t understand how his product could help their business until the 3rd meeting, at best. Needless to say, he didn’t get to the 3rd meeting very often.

Most founders tell me it’s hard for people to get their product until they “see it in action.” (Cue the long demo.)

It’s a worldwide epidemic amongst tech founders: not being able to clearly and concisely explain what your product is…or does.

It shows up in extra long PowerPoint decks, over-wrought diagrams, technical jargon and countless would-be customers who are left feeling confused…or worse yet…

Go beyond the formulaic approach to present your unique idea.

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Photo: congerdesign/Pixabay

I recently met a founder who was tearing his hair out after a string of unsuccessful meetings with investors. For privacy, I’ll call him Jim.

“They’re not getting it,” he told me. “The opportunity is so [bleep]-ing obvious and I can’t make them see it.”

Jim was trying to raise seed investment for his startup, a job assistance app for the hourly workforce. …

Are these common messages selling your startup short?

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When you’re creating something new that didn’t exist before, it’s tough finding the right words to explain it.

If you’re a founder of an innovative product or business, you’ve probably explained it to people 10, 50, 100 different ways…and still haven’t found the one that feels right.

In a perfect world, the inherent awesomeness of your product would be enough to get people on board. But in the real world of your market — a noisy, crowded and inattentive cluster — you have to help people “get” your product in an instant.

You have to frame its value in a…

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Common sense doesn’t always lead to a compelling message.

“Storytelling” may sound fluffy, but it’s a cunning tool for startups.

We humans have been telling them since our knuckles dragged along the cave floor. Our brains are hardwired for them.

Stories help us understand abstract concepts and apply them to our own lives. They make us care. If you can tell a damn good story, you can sell the vision of your never-before-seen product, no matter how abstract it may be.

But figuring out your own story ain’t easy. Our instincts often lead us down the path to something flat and uninspiring.

Here are 3 good intentions that commonly…

Emma O'Brien

Messaging & Positioning Strategist | I help founders and startups tell bigger stories about their products at

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