I met Shane Snow a few years ago. He thought he was interviewing me for a story. Well, I thought this too, but I quickly realised that he was the more interesting subject.
Others have—and will—blog on the awesomeness of Contently, Shane’s incredible start-up that he co-founded at the start of 2014. Contently are in fact so awesome that one of their company values is to be awesome. But behind the massively successful start-up (USD$9M raised, 50,000 freelancers working for them, a slew of big brand customers that would make any startup green) is something that you may not think would be a predictor of success. Shane is one of the nice guys. In fact, I am not sure that I have ever met a more humble, thoughtful, caring, conscious and giving person. And it is that for which I am the ultimate fan girl.
Hearing him speak to participants in the Better by Design Study Tour, I was compelled by his ability to be interested in the question rather than having a need to know the answer. I guess that is the training of the journalist but something all business people can learn from in a rapidly changing digital world where today’s truth is tomorrow’s garbage. It is a lesson I am trying to impart on my team: the power of curiosity.
But it was after our visit, as I watched Shane’s incredible Ted Talk on the founding motto of Contently – “he who tells the stories, rules the world” – that the true lessons were revealed. His inner niceness exudes past the awkward stage set up and the echoing sound-track. In a mic-drop moment during the talk he shares a personal story so intimate and real, his ability to tell it with emotions in check made me realise that he must have shared it many times. It was clear he felt that sharing it was very important, no matter how hard it was to tell. And as he finished his story he shared the reason for this; that his belief about story-telling had, from this, evolved even further; that he who tells the stories can in fact change the world.
His start-up is effectively a new player in the world of marketing, you know, that profession that has historically been all about the mastery of manipulation. What is refreshing about this new entrant in the marketing world is that it is being built from a place of sincerity and integrity. Contently is all about producing the stories of the brands they represent. Not made up stories but the real honesty that forms the core belief of the brand. As I would put it, their ‘brand truth’, AKA, why the company exists in the world. Not only is it now impossible for a brand to hide behind a lie *cough, VW* but brands are now being judged by their contribution to the world (through charitable tie backs and the trend to a double-bottomline) and their contribution to their customers’ lives (look at Nike's strength with life-enhancing tools like Nike+).
Perhaps it is the power of honesty that can in fact change the world. Or perhaps it's late and I'm getting too philosophical. All this fan girl really wants to state emphatically is that Shane is bringing integrity back to storytelling; telling stories with such authenticity that this, in itself, might just change the world.
Here’s hoping this nice guy finishes first. I just think he might.
- Claudia Batten is NZTE's regional director for North America and is currently on the Better By Design Study Tour along with a range of other Kiwis. She was COO and co-founder of agency Victors & Spoils.
- This story originally appeared on idealog.co.nz