Episode 428 Copywriting with Todd Jones All About Origin Stories

Show Summary

Todd Jones talks to Rob Cairns about Why You Need an Origin Story.

Show Highlights:

  1. Why do you need an origin story for your business?
  2. The value of an origin story
  3. What goes in an origin story?

Hey, everybody, Rob, Cairns here and in today’s podcast, we have copywriting with Todd Jones. How are you today, Todd?

You know, not too bad. I can’t complain. I’ve gotten them some steps in and had some chicken wings for lunch and. So good to go.

Good. Today I thought we talked about origin stories in the sense of copywriting. So why are they important?

Well, you know, I was telling you in the green room there that I wrote down this list and I need to write an article about. It. Which the the the points I want to give you about origin story is going to become an article so but first I I would say you know. We’re talking about origin story for a company or for an organization and. I think that people want. That ordinance story for the same reason they want to. Ohh, about you know any human would want to know a story about someone you know, you make somebody the first time. So tell me about yourself. So it’s just natural curiosity. Like, what makes us who we are. And I think that’s true with the business as well. And so I I. A couple weeks ago I was able to be on a podcast by David Garfinkel. And he’s a veteran copywriter and he put out a post and he’s got a book called Persuasion Stories, persuasive storytelling, very good books. I recommend it to anyone listening, easy read, but it’s very, very valuable. And anyway, in the course of promoting the book, he puts out this. Tweet I saw it, of of. Fall back and you know that meme that goes around. How’s it going, how it started, and how’s it going? You know that meme, you know, they’ll they’ll have a before basically a before and after picture. So if we were doing one of Rob, there would be a rob of of when he was in his 20s and a rob. Now how you know, how’s it going or how it started and how’s it going? You know, like those those memes have gone around well, he says. And I think he’s right. This is basically an origin story, a very simplistic version of an origin story. An origin story short showcases your journey both as a solo producer, entrepreneur and as a company, so I think that’s important. It showcases something you have overcome, especially as a company, and if we want to throw solopreneurs in there as well. Usually, especially if you start a company based on a product, you have overcome some you have. You have solved some kind of problem. I have have worked with and interviewed startup companies in the past and that’s like the central part of how they got started. They they overcome, they they they found a gap in the market. About something and they set out to solve it. Actually you and I and Ryan were talking about N commerce, which is a a fairly new e-commerce platform built on WordPress. They felt there was a gap in the market because there was no real competition with WooCommerce and so they set out to solve that problem. So we’ll see in five years, you know how that how that worked, but it’s one of those things that in fact the guy who started northcom. Nurse. He actually has a manifesto on his website. I was astonished and delighted. We’ll talk about that in a future episode about having a manifesto. But so origin story can help people see how you went from where you are to where you are now.

Yeah, that same session.

Another thing, go ahead.

Should your origin story be written as in text, should it be video as in the? Video. Could it be audio as in a podcast, or should it be all of the above?

Yeah, I would go with all the above, but I think sometimes it’s best to start with a written cause. You see it visually, right? It’s out on the, it’s on the paper. Now, that being said, I know that it’s not always easy to do. Some people are not good writers. Sometimes people think faster than they can write. Go ahead and fire up the video camera and start with the most basic raw. This is the story. This is how it went. In fact, when I did Georges story for you, that’s what you did. You you submitted a video to me, which I was able to take. And create a written version of your origin story. But I think as far as an official origin story goes, I think you start with the written so that you can. Determine the story arc that you’re going to use, and then from there you you. It’s just like anything else that you create on. Mine. You’re you’re gonna distribute it various channels. So a video with you talking about it is a great thing to do. I think it’s a great format. Obviously, you put it on YouTube, you can use it. I’ve seen people use some version of Origin story for video ads both on TV and online. Absolutely do that. I like, you know, the audio podcast thing as well and I think. You know, I work with main WP and I’ve been working on trying to create something for them as well and up until now most of that has been auto audio, if you will. Basically, Dennis, either in a article or on a podcast telling like how it. Happening. I’ve gone through all those resources to pull out various details to create. The origin story in past, especially maybe 102 hundred years ago, that’s probably how we were telling the origin stories. You know, it’s a, it’s an auditory deal. Like we pass it around. You know that way. So I think the answer to that question is yes.

It’s all about to repurposing your content, right? So if you’ve got it written, you should be able to translate that into a video into a podcast, into a forward, in a book, etcetera, etcetera. I mean.

Yeah. Yep, Yep. Yeah. I wouldn’t even love to see people do Doctor Mary style videos on their orchid stories. You know, you’ve gotta have.

Too many people.

The the stuff there to do it with, I mean, you know, if you’ve only been in business a couple of years, that’s not gonna work. But if you’ve been in business 20-30 years, you very likely even if you’ve rapidly grown in 10 years, you could likely do some sort of an origin story in a documentary style format. That you put on YouTube that’s put on your maybe your about page or something like that. Absolutely see that as a as a great thing. And to do so, repurposing it, distributing it to different channels, it’s all about it is about repurposing. It’s also about distributing your content in various channels because you may have a a presentation coming up for your company and you may need to tell people because after all, you’re trying to explain why they should. Buy the product from you or use your service and you may do a you know two or three slides in that deck. On your on your origin story about your company, how you went from, how you started to, to where you are now, a great place to get origin stories is Shark Tank. Yeah, those folks come in to the sharks and. Often they tell the origin of how the product that they’re trying to sell began as a great place to hear original stories.

I also think flip side of your origin story should be on your PR page or your media page as well, because that’s where people are trying to find out about these other things like articles, podcast interviews, and.


So on right.

Yeah, and. And so I absolutely, I think certainly if you’re a. If you’re a solo paneer or or a freelancer, you know, we talked about BIOS. That’s essentially an origin story, right? So I I think the best thing to do is I have. Of first of all, like just build out your story no matter how long it is and it won’t be that long. But occasionally you’ll have one that basically becomes a memoir. But that’s not what we’re trying to do. You’re trying to get it all out there, and that’s the best thing to do. And then find a way to have three different. Three different. I guess formats not really formats, but links. You have your condensed short one, which would be similar to a bio which you could put on a media page like what you’re talking about. Or feature page. And then you have maybe a medium length. One might serve as the core of your about page or you just have a page. On your history of your company or whatever, that would be the core of it. And we have a longer one which could be used in many different ways, but certainly have it documented, but it could be used to create. This is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen they do, but. A little ebook like, you know, because people are gonna want to know and you know. I’m not talking. About A50 page ebook, I’m talking about 3. Your maybe your success stories have a copy of it in an ebook form a little bit long, little bit longer, maybe a little bit more detail, that kind of thing. And then it’s something that’s downloadable. So somebody wants to dig into that a little bit more. Actually I have a book and I think you have it too I think. It was by a drip. Or drift. And they did what I call a pig. On conversational marketing, I think that’s the one. I’m not sure it was something, but anyway, the very first of the book was all about how they started out doing one thing. And they they switched to something else because the way the use case of how the customers were using the product, they pivoted to move in that direction. I call that a pivot story. So yeah, you can use that in the front of a book as well if you’re if you put out a book that really is like the linchpin of your brand. And that could actually be an early part of that book or the 1st chapter, or even a a prologue. So absolutely, I think that’s a.

Great idea. What are the components? The major components that should go into the origin story if you’re right.

Well, let me let me finish telling some of the things. That I think. There’s a reason. For an origin story, and then we’ll get into some of the things to put in your origin story. One of the thing I think it does is it shows your companies purposes and values is kind of reveals like why you are you know what your purpose is. And so I tell people think about your favorite comic book and the villains and the superheroes. Especially the villains, because it’s kind of like, why are the villain? Why is the villain wanting to kill everybody? Why is the villain so mean? Well, there’s a reason, and you and the comic book series will tell that origin story. Why? Luke’s Lex Luthor is so bad, or whatever. I think it also creates trust and when they see all this, they become connected to you, especially if there’s a. Something that that they identify well with as well, but also I think there’s an element of. People want to physically and metaphorically see you and metaphorically would be the story they want to be. So I was having a conversation with a friend about people online not showing their image, and in 2024 that just seems, especially if you’re kind of in the business world, it just seems. Untrusting to not show a picture of who you are and I think not revealing at least something of the company you know about how you started it it. I think people trust you more whenever they know. Something about you and then the last thing I will say on all this is and this is kind of loosely. Tied, but I don’t. So nostalgia we are nostalgic and I’m nostalgic and I’m gonna tell you two things I’ve watched recently which connects me to my childhood. The 1st is the Bionic woman. Do you remember Lindsay Wagner? I do, man. Yeah. The bionic woman. And of course, I watched the 6,000,000. Darn man as well. But I’m like, I was instantly transported to being 8 years old, watching that. Like, really. And then the other thing I watched in the last few days is The Lone Ranger. Now that was made when my dad was a kid. But when I was a kid, I would go in at 6:00 AM in the morning and watch those. Reruns with it. And so nostalgia. I mean, even, you know, as a as a company, like, there’s a lady, the Stucky chain of of convenience. Stores, they’ve kind of fallen, you know, on the on the, the the scale to Bucky’s a little bit. Well the the lady is she’s the heir and she’s the CEO is going everywhere and kind of revitalizing the brand of Stuckey’s and. There’s a lot of nostalgia with that, just like if you go into a cracker barrel, if you’ve ever. Been in a. Cracker Barrel, but. They will put things in there that you may have played with or watched or listened to the kid. So nostalgia is huge, and I think people, especially if the company’s older and maybe you can connect it back to your childhood, I think this subject can be very powerful in that regard. So. OK, what things go into your origin story is that what you’re asking?

Yeah, but I wanted to try. Before we go there, I wanted to dress one. You. You said when you were talking about things to show.


To connect with you and to see you and to read you. And I truly think as a business this is more important today with all the AI problems, with fraud out there and everything else. And one of the biggest problems people have today is they do business or try to do business with people. Without getting to know them, and I think the origin story helps you get to know somebody and that is really important as.

I think it’s a starting point, right? And the and to go further, because I think what you’re going to see. Moving forward, because of AI and and certainly AI has so many things that we use for I’m I’m in perplexity all all the time and I use some other ones as well for certain things. But. Companies. I think customer experience is gonna be a huge thing going forward. More so. So what do we complain about every week, some moments of a company doing something and and really not having a good experience and not a good customer service. So I I think in fact my friend Brittany Hodak, who is all about customer experience and as a consultant with many companies across the country. For that, she has little framework and the S Super fans, but the S stands for story. You tell them your story, you get started, and so she kind of validates what you’re saying. I think in the sense that it starts with to have a good customer experience, to create super fans, people need to know who you are. They’re not going to be a super fan of a name, a nameless company, a faceless company. Funny. So that’s that’s my opinion. Now the big companies, you know that are famous, faceless and nameless. They do a great job putting other faces in front of us to represent them right immediately. I’m thinking about progressive. I don’t even use progressive, but I know flow right. She’s the head person. The one in the commercials and then I know Jamie the the goofball, they kind of represent progressive and you feel like you know them, right. You know, somebody like them. Maybe you are like. Them and so and then I’m always a big fan of limu EMU and Doug, I know a lot of people think that’s a silly commercial, but I love it. I think it’s great and this is a nameless, faceless insurance company, both of them. And they have done a great job of creating, I don’t say trust, but they’ve given a face to their company in the terms of these commercials. Characters and so forth. Same with State Farm and I’d actually do use State Farm and I like I’ve told my agent several times. I said if Jake ever comes to Conway, I’d like to hang out with him. I really would. I think he’s cool. So there you go.

No. I think that’s a biggie. We’ve talked about use of forge and stories. We’ve talked about components of an origin story, what else?

Well, you asked me about like what should be in an order store and you know. I. I I’m not gonna say it changed my opinion all the time, but when I do it, do a new one. It’s kind of like. Ohh yeah. OK, so.


I think a great a good origin story centers around an event and don’t always work out that way because sometimes what we have is the history. Basically a good word for that historiography. That’s kind of what we did with yours. It’s kind of in the in the past I’ve consulted. People and that’s basically what we did, a historiography that is really great for solopreneurs and entrepreneurs who have done many things and so forth. There’s really not a scene specifically, but sometimes there are scenes. But you know, I think if you are able to show how you overcame something for Rod Karens, one of the things I thought found interesting in your story was that when you were in college, you had a professor to turn you off marketing completely. Never want anything to do with it. Swore it off and now you’re a veteran digital marketer. It’s like, how is that happened? Well, here’s the story. Here’s how it happened. There’s a lot of other stuff involved in that, like your computer love background, that kind of stuff, but it was fascinating to me. And so I I worked with someone else. And so who’s this opener? And we looked at some of the things in his past that kind of set him where he is now. And, but you know, sometimes when it comes to a solopreneur, you don’t have just one interesting thing or one thing that kind of connects. Now when you’re a company and you’re doing an origin story. Almost always there is a something that led to starting it. Paul Mitchell, you know the the the guy who did the hair products and all that kind of stuff. He, I mean, you know, he had. There’s a that’s a fascinating story. And I can’t actually remember it right now, but if you go look it up, it’s a really fascinating story. The central part of their history, LB. That was a guy who who would? He would go out in the wild. You know, his shoes weren’t holding up, so he decided to make some and some boots and he actually failed. The first time he had to give people all their money back and start over and and do it again. And now they’re all being is the most. LL Bean is most well known outdoor gear in the country in the probably the world, at least North America, in fact. Fact. I don’t know about every news station across the country, but I noticed that the ABC one here in Little Rock, they always have LL Bean gear on when they’re out. So if they’re like it’s a winter or it’s or rain or whatever, you can always look the reporters wearing something that says LL Bean. So they obviously go out and get LL bean stuff. Supposed to be known for keeping you dry and so LL Bean has an interesting founding story. There’s always some something, and of course I learned some in Kendra Hall’s book stories that stick. And the one that stuck out to me, she was doing a a consult with company. That built very premium price homes and buildings, that kind of stuff high end like not your average stuff. And so you know they got paid really well for what they did. They were, they were going through that and and really she was having a hard time finding something and she discovered that. This guy who started the company when he was a kid. When everybody else is playing baseball and all this other stuff, he was actually building something. He was building a fortress. He was building a bird house. He was building something in his backyard. He was always building as a kid, and it was like a foregone conclusion he was going to build and she centered on that, even though it’s not really specifically a part of the history of the company. But it was the thing that was the spark that got him to where he was. I mean, there’s so many interesting ways you can do that, but I think any story. Should have. How you overcame something? I think that is important as much as possible, so you might go like, OK, well, we started this thing, right. We started this business and in year two, you know, we had this problem. And we always had to close.


And I consulted a marketing experts named Rob Karens, and he built us a website and we started getting traffic and started able to sell through a website. And we, you know that that’s what I’m talking about. And then you have the pivot story, right, the the stories of the company that they’re going down One Direction, it’s actually not working at all. And they find out that somebody. This is why it’s important to find out what your customers are doing with your product. They find out the customers using it for something totally different. They pivot the company and the rest is history. You know, there’s all these different ways of building that story. I like to have dialogue as much as possible. There’s always some kind of dialogue in a story. Either it’s between two different people in the story, or it’s between the narrator and the person reading. I think it’s better if you have two or three people in the story who are talking to each other’s dialogue. I think just kind of adds to it.

Interesting thoughts. Is there anything else that you wanted to sort of mention around George and storage time?

Well, I have a a work a worksheet I use when I start an origin story and and and really it’s a lot of spelunking, you know, like diving in and digging in and trying to find the Nuggets and. And somebody story. Sometimes you find out that the original story that you use is not exactly always how. You know in your case it was the founder story of studying digital marking. You are the founder. So it was really more centered around you in in smaller companies that very well may be the case, right? There’s. It’s a chicken tender place. We have one in Conway. I started out Louisiana. The dog they named. He named it after his dog. The dog’s name is Kane. And I just remember that because they have it up on the wall. When you go in there. So, you know, sometimes your the story may not be. Specifically, the actual origin, but I think anything that feeds into that origin, whether it’s your background as a builder when. You’re a kid or. You swore off marketing when you’re in college because the professor was, you know, or, you know, those kind of things really play into that origin story.



Hey, Todd, thanks for talking about origin stories.


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