Caryn Marooney, Silicon Valley communications professional turned venture capitalist, spoke extensively on storytelling at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising. During her talk, she broke down messaging into four critical parts.
Marooney knows what she’s talking about: Throughout her time in Silicon Valley, she helped companies like Salesforce, Amazon, Facebook and more launch products and maintain messaging. In 2019, she left Facebook, where she was VP of technology communication, and joined Coatue Management as a general partner.
The presentation is summarized below and lightly edited for readability. Marooney breaks down her method into the acronym of RIBS: Relevance, Inevitability, Believability and keeping it Simple. A video of her presentation is also embedded below and contains 20 minutes of Q&A where she answers audience questions and covers a lot of ground.
Marooney has written extensively on this subject for TechCrunch, including this article, where she describes her RIBS method in detail. Last month, she expanded on this topic with her go-to-market strategy around building a hamburger.
‘The gift of editing is critical. Do not just write all your ideas and get very excited about what you think and ship it.’
Why should anyone care? Does anyone care? That’s the point Marooney is making here. The message must be relevant to the audience before anything else.
The very first thing is why anyone should care. And it’s important to remember that as a startup, you’re in a situation where nobody knows you. And nobody thinks, “Oh, I should really care about this. So you need to be very specific about who your audiences are and why they should care and why it matters to them. Early on, too. Relevance is usually to a very small audience, and you earn the right every day to expand that audience.
So, for example, when I was first working with Salesforce, it was a very narrow set of salespeople, for small- and medium-sized businesses, there was always the sense that it was going to be a cloud provider for companies of every size, but you have to start somewhere. And when you’re starting somewhere, you can paint the bigger picture. But you have to be specific about the benefits to your smaller audience. (Timestamp: 1:48)
In addition to talking about Tesla, Marooney uses the counter-example of the Segway, which shows a great idea alone is not enough. Even though Segways were introduced as a world-changing mode of transportation, in 2021, Segways are mainly only used by mall cops and tourists.