The Susan Lindner Hypothesis: The Most Powerful Person in the Room Is the Storyteller

Susan Lindner is an innovation storyteller and the Founder & CEO of Emerging Media, an award-winning PR, marketing, and branding agency. Susan speaks to startups, innovators, and top executives from 60+ countries at GE, PWC, Deutchebank, and Capital One, and at global conferences, consulates, and trade organizations about strategic storytelling: mastering the message and the media for maximum impact.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we talk about how to apply concepts of strategic storytelling to your product and get your message out there.

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Questions We Explore in This Episode

The Susan Lindner Hypothesis: The Most Powerful Person in the Room Is the StorytellerHow did Susan go from working to stop the spread of HIV in Thailand to her current work in PR? What lessons did she learn about storytelling from this experience? How do you change human behavior with messaging? What did she learn about interviewing people from her work with the CDC? How did a blind date lead her to a career in PR?

What key lessons did Susan learn from selling tech in the 90s? Why did “buy my product or go out of business” ultimately prove to not be a winning strategy? What key question did Susan learn to ask that shifted things from selling based on fear? Why is it our job to explain transformation through our product?

Why does Susan take her cues from the greatest religious leaders ever? Why are these stories so deeply ingrained in our culture? Why should you ask what you’re holding onto and what’s valuable in the communications lexicon for the human on the other side to understand? How do you figure out what kind of prophet you want to be?

Why did Steve Jobs say that the most powerful person in the room is the storyteller? Why do you need to step up and take the stoplight in order to take product to the next level? How do you get clear about your message? Why is it so important to place your product in its context?

How do you identify your early adopters and why are they so important? How do you get other people to see your story as their own? How do you know when you’ve found your people? How do you tell a story that allows someone to see themselves in your product? How do you know when you’ve made something truly innovative? How do you inject drama into your stories? Why is it so important to share your mistakes?

Quotes From This Episode

Our ability to quantify and qualify how life gets fundamentally better, thanks to a product, is the job of the product manager, of the marketer, of the CEO. Click To Tweet The innovation of storytelling is about getting someone to see a future that they couldn't envision before you were there. Click To Tweet When you wrap data in a story it's more memorable than just the facts alone. Our brains are not built on Excel spreadsheets, our brains are built on story. Click To Tweet


Holly Hester-Reilly: Hi, and welcome to the Product Science Podcast, where we’re helping startup founders and product leaders build high-growth products, teams, and companies through real conversations with people who’ve tried it and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host, Holly Hester-Reilly, Founder and CEO of H2R Product Science. All right, this week on the Product Science Podcast I’m super excited to have a conversation with Susan Lindner.
Susan is an innovation storyteller. She’s the CEO of Emerging Media, and she does a lot of awesome things. She’s a cultural anthropologist, brand marketer, disruptor. She got her start as an AIDS educator in the brothels of Thailand helping turn prostitutes into entrepreneurs. Today she’s the Founder of Emerging Media, dedicated to helping innovators and disruptors to create stories that get them the resources, runway and recognition they deserve.
Her award-winning strategies have gotten 10 companies acquired and she is now hell-bent on sharing them with the world. Susan speaks to startups, innovators and top executives from 60 plus countries at GE, PwC, Deutsche Bank, Capital One, and at global conferences, consulates and trade organizations about strategic storytelling, mastering the message and the media for maximum impact. Welcome, Susan.
Susan Lindner: Thank you so much for having me Holly.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I always love to get started by just learning more about people’s journeys. I’m curious how you got to where you are today. I mean, brothels… What?
Susan Lindner: Those student loans are very debilitating and every girl has to find a way to earn a living, no, but not this way. I spent the decade after college, the years of my 20s working in, I would say the giving profession. I started off working with breast cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, and then fulfilled on my desire to work on the topic of my undergraduate thesis in anthropology which was AIDS, Prostitution and Tourism in Thailand. I went to work for the largest nonprofit organization in Thailand, the Thai organization, [foreign language 00:02:25].
Holly Hester-Reilly: Wow.
Susan Lindner: Well, the Population and Community Development Association. And there I worked predominantly with HIV-infected populations, both Thai and hill tribe populations helping to stop the spread of HIV. At the time one in six sexually active people were HIV positive where I lived. It was not uncommon to go to the bank or go to the market and see people who are really suffering from the disease with very visible symptoms of the disease. And there were about three AIDS funerals in my province a day so it was very pervasive. And in the midst of this COVID time that we’re in now, there are parts of it that feel very reminiscent of it to me.
But I my spent my time doing AIDS education with prostitutes and their customers and the mamasans, the women who own those brothels. And that started me on my storytelling journey because the only innovation I had to work with was the condom. And archeologists have shown us now that the condom is actually 10,000 years old, they found cave paintings in France. We don’t know if these paintings were public health announcements or some guy bragging about last night, but needless to say, we know that the condom’s been around us for a long time.
And when I got to Thailand there were billboards and posters everywhere that just said, “Get AIDS and die.” And that was the fear-based warning that called, turned on all the alarm bells. It’s just really hard to base public health messaging around just that because the fear factor wears off. And in order to change human behavior we have to get people invested in the change. We have to get people seeing an innovation and a shift somewhere else in order to overcome human inertia. And I feel like the relevancy around product management is like, how do we get people to stop using X product and start using my product?
And so the thinking around that for me was, how do I make the listener of this public health message the hero? What mattered to her? What mattered to that brothel customer? He was pretty much in it for a good time but what if we could turn him into the guy who protects his family every time he goes to a brothel by wearing a condom? What if we could make him the hero of his family? And for the prostitute herself, what if we could show her a destiny that was beyond just surviving, seeing eight customers a night? And that turned into how can we help turn women who don’t want to be prostitutes anymore into small business owners?
That was the shift. And for me that was the aha moment, that light bulb moment where I thought, “It’s not about the thing, it’s not about the innovation or the product, it’s about the story we wrap around it that makes it possible for people to see themselves in a new light and by the way, see that product as the vehicle for getting them into that new space.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. That’s really compelling and it resonates with a lot of things that I’ve read and heard in my own time as an entrepreneur. Some of the best advice I’ve read even on around something as mundane as how to build a really great sales deck was build the sales deck so that the listener that you’re pitching to is the hero of their own story.
Susan Lindner: That’s right.
Holly Hester-Reilly: The deck is about you, it’s about how you make them the hero.
Susan Lindner: Right. It’s not about you, it’s not about the thing you built, it’s not about how much it costs, it’s not even about how much time or money they save. It’s what happens? What are they doing with all the time and the money that they’re saving? How do you get them into that promised land mindset now that you’re saving them all this time and money? What will their life look like after that?
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, I love that. I mean, you’ve obviously done a lot since the time in Thailand, so tell me a little bit about how you transitioned from there. What came next?
Susan Lindner: Yeah. My last job before moving into the world of innovation storytelling was at the Centers for Disease Control, I was working on a grant looking at variant and resistant strains of the virus coming into New York City. And I’ll never forget I heard words I knew I would never hear again in my life which was, “We really need an anthropologist on this project.” I don’t think, I’m never going to hear that again. I mean, Holly, when have you needed an anthropologist in your life to get through your day?
Holly Hester-Reilly: Oh, gosh. I mean, just these days I honestly feel like I could use it a lot, like help me understand what’s going on with society. But tell me more about what was going on there, why did they need an anthropologist?
Susan Lindner: Yeah, so I was talking predominantly to immigrant populations and minority populations who were here. And I would speak to them the day after they found out they were HIV-positive. And then I would ask them, I would sit down and interview them about their 30 years of sex and drug injecting partners to try to ascertain where the virus had come from.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Oh, you were doing contact tracing type of stuff?
Susan Lindner: Yes, absolutely. And we drew their blood and send it back to the CDC for analysis to find out which strain of the virus that we had, because we were seeing so many different strains from all over the world. And depending on how you got the virus, so through heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, injecting drugs, blood transfusion, et cetera. We were trying to track all those different things and also track drug resistance to see what was working and what wasn’t. That was my day-to-day going to the biggest and some of the scariest hospitals around New York City and interviewing patients on probably what was the saddest day of their life, the day after they found out they were HIV-positive. That was challenging.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Okay, there’s something you said there that I really am curious about. Why did it matter whether it was heterosexual sex or homosexual sex that they’d gotten the virus from?
Susan Lindner: The virus just shows up as different, I mean it’s an animal, it lives in our body differently. And so all the different ways that you get a virus over time, the virus mutates.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Interesting.
Susan Lindner: We see different kinds of disease vectors of it brings the virus to us and then how it changes inside the human body.
Holly Hester-Reilly: What was the impact that you were able to have as an anthropologist in that work?
Susan Lindner: I think it was really beginning interviewing people with compassion, it was the largest nationwide study at the time for the CDC trying to track all these different strains coming into the United States and really trying to ascertain how much resistance there was because the drugs were really awful, really hard on the body. And so people would start them and stop them, and start them and stop them, which created resistance to the virus too. Really beginning to get our arms around just the depth and breadth of the virus in order to make medicines that would address all the different strains of the virus.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Got it.
Susan Lindner: That was the information we were collecting. But after 10 years of being in HIV I was getting a little burned out. I mean, I can’t tell you the number of AIDS funerals I’ve been to in my life, it felt endless at some point. But the shift happened for me, I went on a miserable blind date with a senior editor at Forbes Magazine. And about 15 minutes into the date he told me that there wasn’t any chemistry there and I asked him if he had showered for the date and he said probably not. And he said, “But you and I are going to be friends for the rest of our lives.” And I thought, “We’ll see.”
And long story short, he went to my wedding, I went to his wedding and I was the publicist on his first book. But he was constantly complaining to me and our friendship developed over time but he would constantly complain to me about these horrible PR people who were distracting him from writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning opus on the tech sector and internet hackers, that was his field.
In any event, I thought, “Gosh, I think I could do that.” I thought to myself, “If I could convince a John to put on a condom in a brothel at two o’clock in the morning I could certainly compel a journalist to write a story about some cool new product or some hot new startup. And was 1999 and I had a Hotmail account so clearly I was very tech-savvy. My friend introduced me to a couple of PR firms that did not turn his stomach and I applied for a job and started working in tech. And that was in 1999, right at
Holly Hester-Reilly: Wow. I bet you’ve had an incredible ride since then.
Susan Lindner: It’s been a lot of ups and downs that’s for sure. Seen a lot of great products come and go too.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I’m sure you have. What are some of the key lessons that you learned in those… Gosh, I mean, I guess you’ve just said 20 plus years in tech doing storytelling. What are some of the key lessons that you’ve learned over that time and how did you learn them?
Susan Lindner: It’s funny when I look back on that time it’s amazing to me the parallels around selling, right? That condom experience of selling with fear, like get AIDS and die, I mean, there were pictures of hungry ghosts that would come back and haunt you if you didn’t take care of yourself and your family if you got HIV. In 1999, we used a very similar formula for selling tech products, especially because there was so much optimism and uncertainty at the same time in the market. So 1999, there’s a ton of venture capital, this phrase dot com exists and what does that mean? Every large company is like, “Do I need a dot com? What’s a dot com?”
And the conversation that startups were having and great product developers were having would be, “Buy my product or go out of business. Invest in my company or look like the loser who didn’t get on on the biggest thing coming.” And as a PR person I would pitch journalists and say, “You have to write about this amazing new startup or product, otherwise I’m going to take it to your competitor. And boy, won’t you be sorry, you’ll be the laughing stock of the newsroom if you don’t cover this awesome new startup.”
Holly Hester-Reilly: More fear, huh?
Susan Lindner: Yes, yes. And it was incredibly effective. We had all this optimism but at the same time the undercurrent was Y2K. With even with great optimism and in times of technological change, we really don’t know what’s coming next. We really have a fear of, “But what if it all goes sideways? What if I invest in this and this company evaporates like so much either way I did?” And for those journalists who bank their reputation on every cool new hot startup, and we watched them go belly-up when the dot com boom had burst, their reputations also sometimes went with it.
I found that same fear factor operating again in how we mark it but everything shifted with the sharing economy. There was a sense that people didn’t want that fear factor anymore, people wanted goodwill. And it comes down to this one fundamental question, “How am I making my customer’s life better now that my product or service is in their life?” And that saves time saves money, who cares? The question is, how is their life now different? Their personal life, their professional life, what changes?
And I think the other ramification of the dot com boom was the desire for transformation, not just change. We wanted our lives to transform if we were going to invest our money in innovation. If we’re going to stand outside of an Apple store for three days to get an iPad, this had better be life-changing. And so our ability to quantify and qualify how life gets fundamentally better, thanks to a product, is the job now of the product manager, of the marketer, of the CEO. It’s our job to explain transformation, vis-a-vis a product.
Holly Hester-Reilly: What do you mean by the difference between transformation and just change?
Susan Lindner: I want to know that I won’t go back to doing things the old way anymore. That life becomes fundamentally different, I can’t go back. And there’s a qualitative, I could prove to you that my life is better. I think about people who are selling security-based products, for example, and the ability to tell someone, “You get to go home at five o’clock. You don’t have to stay up all night addressing false positives. Your weekends become your own again. You’ll get a raise or a promotion because we’ve been able to divert resources to a completely different place. We’ve been able to save so much time that we can now expand into Europe or Asia, and we never had the bandwidth or the opportunity before your product came along.” The transformation becomes real. There are quantifiable ways that my life is now better than yesterday and I can’t go back.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s powerful. When you’re working with an innovation client, a storyteller, whether they’re a product manager or a CEO or somebody else, how do you help them find the way to tell that story?
Susan Lindner: There are five steps to think about when you first get started thinking about innovation storytelling, right? And the first of that is, the greatest storytellers ever, and I take my cues from the greatest religious leaders ever. Why? Because we’re still telling those stories 5,000 years later and those guys are no longer here. We are still telling the same stories. Why is that? Why are they so deeply ingrained in us and how are we able to translate them from grandmother to granddaughter and we’re still telling them?
I think of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, these are the greatest viral storytellers. And by that, I mean, they got other people to tell their stories long after they’re gone, that’s the virality of it. I was a religion and anthropology dual major in college and my interest was figuring out how did they do that? How did they figure that out? And so what I come to find is number one is don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
Step one, when we’re thinking about telling this cool new product story, we call it email for a reason. We understand what mail is. We don’t necessarily know what sending an electronic current through a pipe underneath the ocean so that it shows up on a computer in London means to us. But we know that we know what mail is and we know what a computer is and we get that the mail shows up on the computer. We know that that little save button on Word is a floppy disk but generations to come we’ll have no idea what that picture is.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Oh, already. I have a three-year-old, I’m very aware.
Susan Lindner: We have no idea what that is and we still hit that to hit save, because old folks like us know what that thing is. The prophets never throw out the baby with the bath water. Jesus respected the traditions of the Old Testament before the shift. The Buddha never said he wasn’t a Hindu he just found a new way of recognizing the path. And Muhammad is one of many in a long line of prophets who came to talk about the one God. Right?
If we asked first the question, what are we holding on to? What’s valuable in the communications lexicon in order to bring with us for the human on the other side to understand? Step one. Step two is figure out the kind of prophet you want to be. Are you the person who’s in the front of the room? Are you empowering your team to tell the story? Who is actually going to be the leader owning the story?
If you can, and I strongly recommend that it’s you, especially if you’re the innovator around the product, if you develop the product own it. Because you see things that everyone else can’t see, because you can see a vision of what the future looks like that the rest of us don’t get yet because you built it. Having your DNA all over that story and your product is really important. That’s step two, figure out the kind of prophet you want to be. And just a reminder, prophets walk the walk so you can’t be a prophet and a hypocrite. You really have to own whatever values that are going to be surrounding that product. If it’s an MBP, if it’s absolutely engineering to perfection right from the go, know what the value is around how you built it.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Question for you on this step of figuring out who the prophet is. Do you ever get pushback from people who don’t want to be in the spotlight? Who are like, “No, I had the idea and I figured out, here’s my vision for the future but can’t I have somebody else sell it?
Susan Lindner: All the time, all the time.
Holly Hester-Reilly: And what do you say?
Susan Lindner: I say to them what Steve Jobs said, which is that the most powerful person in the room is the storyteller. He is the person who holds the vision, the mission and the future of the business. And so if we abdicate that role, know that you’re abdicating your leadership within the organization that you intend to be in. And being the most valuable person in the room is a value regardless of where you go and this is a leadership skill for the 21st century. I don’t care if you’ve been at the bench your entire life, your ability to get buy-in from other people whether it’s the engineering team, other people on the product team, executives to get funding for the next iteration of this product, you’re going to need to have those skills and it’s about creating influence in the organization. If you want to see more of what you do and more of your team members doing what you do, it’s time to step up.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Cool.
Susan Lindner: Even if it’s terrifying.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. I love your answer, I think that’s very true. And I coach a lot of people who are trying to step up or either recently have become the head of product or are mid-career and looking to become that leader. And a lot of times that is one of the things that we have to talk about is, you do need to be comfortable being the person everyone goes to and being the person who’s communicating the story. And it’s fine to be humble but you can’t try to push it on everyone else.
Susan Lindner: Right. You’re right. The next is getting really clear about the message and the message is about the shift. The message is about the shift. Jesus didn’t abdicate his role as a member of the Jewish community but he did say it’s time for a change. What will you leave behind? As we go through the transformation what no longer serves you? What no longer serves the people you are trying to serve? Those people who will ultimately buy your product. And so explain to me why the shift is now? What’s happening right now that makes it impossible to go back?
Because all great prophets arise in a particular context. Your product is arising in a particular time and place. Explain it to me what’s happening now? And then the next is the message which is, we’ve gone from an eye for an eye to turn the other cheek. What does it look like now? And so you may need a little help from your marketing department, other people on the team hosting a brainstorming session to say, “What’s the message? What’s different, what’s changed?” And own it. Can you actually name it?
Some might say the shift to SaaS-based products was a shift into this subscription economy, let’s say, where we’re doing everything on a monthly basis. We’ve gone from being super uptight and protected to now storing things in the cloud. What was the shift of trust that needed to take place? Maybe it’s the trust in economy that’s changed. The whole sharing economy is a shift, so can you name that shift? And so working on that message is really critical.
And then lastly is who are the early adopters? Who are the people, you’re 12 apostles who are going to help you take that message forward? And it may not be the loudest most outspoken people, it may be the most cynical or questioning folks that people will find most critical, well, if he believes it. Mikey won’t need it, he hates everything. Like those old life cereal commercials. But finding other advocates because that’s how the stats is getting other people to see the story as their own. I liken this to the difference between liking something on social media versus sharing it.
Holly Hester-Reilly: How do you know when you found the people? Let’s say you’re in the early stages and you’re building up that base of early adopters. How do you what the difference is between the person who will share it and the person who just likes it?
Susan Lindner: It’s the person whose face lights up when you explain this incredible product that you’ve built. It’s the person that goes, “Wow, I didn’t know that was possible.” And then you ask the question, “What does that mean to you?” The goal of great storytelling is being a really great listener. What is the story you tell that allows that person to see themselves in your product? You make the listener the hero, and you’ve probably heard this 100 times.
But the way the prophets really operated by speaking to us in parables is that we took their story and we made it our story, we made it our own. And then we keep telling that story with our example layered on it and that’s where the credibility comes in. That distinction between liking and sharing, right? Maybe you like a post on Facebook because your friend posted it and she had zero likes and you’re like, “I love Krista. I’m just going to like it just to like it. Who cares?”
“Well, that was cute, that was funny. Yes, yes, yes.” Easy tab. But what does it take to actually share Krista’s posts with the rest of your community now? How much of a personal investment does it take for you to say, “Wow, I’m about to put my brand on your idea. I’m going to believe it’s validated, I’m going to believe that you’ve done your homework, I’m going to believe it’s true and accurate. I’m going to believe that I can trust you and I’m going to believe it’s valuable for all the people in my community if I’m going to share it. I will associate myself with your stuff.” That’s a big leap. I mean, I think most of us stop and take a breath before we hit share.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, definitely.
Susan Lindner: And definitely the innovation story, in order to have movement that’s what it needs. It needs other people to share it in their words.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I was just going to say I love this, the whole framework. I think in many ways people that I spend my time working with a lot of times their question is, “How do I know when I’ve got the thing that is innovative instead of just a small change?” And I think in many ways what you’ve described is also a good way for… All of the steps in there have an implicit understanding of what is the difference between the person who… Having a product that people are going to share instead of a product that they’re just willing to tell you they like but aren’t going to share. Because that’s-
Susan Lindner: That’s right.
Holly Hester-Reilly: … at the end of the day a big challenge that a lot of product leaders face and we talk on here a lot about product discovery and the research that we do to figure out what product customers will love enough to share. And a lot of times our customers or our clients will do research but they’ll not be able to tell the difference between the research participants that are just saying, “Yeah, this is cool,” and the ones who were like, “No, I’m going to use this.” And I think your story is fantastic for that.
I’m wondering if you were to talk to a product leader or a founder who has found some people that do this but maybe they’re not so eloquent. Maybe they’re not used to the marketing, they’re not used to figuring out the messaging of it. How do you help them if they come in and they’re like, “Well, I can answer all of your questions, Susan, but I still don’t know how to make a good story out of it. Are there any tips you have for that?
Susan Lindner: Yeah. The core basic elements of storytelling innovation aside, the innovation of storytelling is about getting someone to see a future that they couldn’t envision before you were there, that is taking them into an unknown future, that innovation story. But it starts with the human connection, right? It starts with a great main character. Who’s going to be our protagonist in this story? If you’ve built it it’s you, hate to break it to you, but it’s you. If you and your team have built it…
The next is drama. Tell me about all the times that you failed in building it. What went sideways, what went wrong? A great story doesn’t happen because our hero has endless successes one scene after another, that’s pretty boring. It’s our questioning of whether or not the product will even make it to the finish line that makes it exciting to know you’ve been part of it. It’s like seeing a painting on the wall and not seeing the 10,000 drafts and the throwaway canvases before you ever got there. That’s what you’re paying for with a painting, right?
Thinking about that drama, and by the way, our friends at Pixar and Disney have this figured out. They know that when we inject drama into the story, we release serotonin and dopamine and adrenaline. And those chemicals in the brain is actually what holds us to the story, it engages us. And we have these excitement and pleasure centers that say, “More please. For those storytellers out there our product managers will think, “This is so boring there’s no way anyone’s going to listen to me. It’s just this thing I felt. It’s really cool, but…” We know that we need a little bit of drama, we want to know where the weak points were, where the hard points were because that’s where we connect as humans. We connect at the pain, we connect at the challenge not at the success. We don’t want to hear how you built it in three days and it was perfect the very first time you tried it.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Which is probably not true, anyways.
Susan Lindner: We don’t believe you.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Nope.
Susan Lindner: We do no not believe you. Authenticity and credibility also really important. And one of the things I just want to mention, many product folks are really great at presenting data to bosses who say, “Look, I don’t have a lot of time. Give me three bullets, tell me where we are. Just the facts, Jack.” And a lot of folks in product management also like operating at that level. But I can tell you one thing, go back into your bosses office 12 minutes later and see if he remembers what you told him. A Stanford study proved to us that data alone is not memorable. Our brains are not built on Excel spreadsheets, our brains are built on memories, are built on story. When you wrap data in a story it’s 22 times more memorable than if you just provide facts alone. And you can quiz yourself-
Holly Hester-Reilly: Awesome.
Susan Lindner: Read a newspaper article and see if you could remember the statistics six minutes later. If you’re just zooming in on the statistics, everyday on CNN we see what the death count is and the number of new cases and five minutes later you can’t tell me what those numbers are. But if you wrap them in story the human brain holds on to them and we continue to build the story in our mind after that so that it locks in there. The more adrenaline and serotonin and dopamine, excitement, drama, failure, success that you can build into the story, the longer people will hold onto it and be able to share it. That’s the science around a story.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, that’s awesome. Are there any final messages or lessons that you would really want our products listeners to know about from what you do and what you’ve learned over your years?
Susan Lindner: Yeah. From the girl whose nickname was Condom Girl, remember it’s not about the condom, this beautiful, beautiful product that you’ve built, the product that you are managing and getting to its final destination the customer, you know that it’s all about them. But can you find the human ways even along the process of how you’ve built it that allow that part of even the building process, the how you decided to bring it to life that will resonate with the end user or in a minimum with other people around you in the company? And don’t be afraid to share where you really screwed it up because that’s where we’re really loving on you.
And the last thing I’ll say is, mechanisms for getting the story out. People are reliant maybe on standing up in front of the group and sharing the story or shooting out an email to folks and telling them the story. Figure out how your audience likes to communicate. Are they people on Slack or they rather be on social? Would you do better with a call over Zoom or BlueJeans? And figuring out how you deliver it because the delivery mechanisms will also help spread the story faster in the way that your listener wants to communicate that. Thinking about the mechanisms for the story, the delivery mechanisms just as you would for your product are just as important for the story, which I’m going to say you are now the product manager of your story. Your story is your next product.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I love it. Well, thank you so much. How can people find you if they want to know more?
Susan Lindner: Yeah. You can look me up at, and I offer shops and consulting and coaching to folks who want to tell better stories or to flex their storytelling muscle. And I’m also coming out with a book, Innovation Storytelling: Get the Resources, Runway and Recognition You Deserve, and that’s going to be out in August and you can find that on my website too.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Oh, fantastic. Well, we’ll definitely link to that in the show notes as well so people can find it.
Susan Lindner: Great.
Holly Hester-Reilly: And thank you so much for your time today, Susan, this was fantastic and I’m sure our listeners will get a lot. They really are hungry for better storytelling techniques and ways to make their stories shine.
Susan Lindner: Awesome. Thank you, Holly. And if your listeners would like a 30-minute free storytelling session with me to help them perfect their stories, I would be honored to offer your product managers that. Just go to and pick a date. I’d love to chat with you about your story.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Oh, wonderful. That sounds fantastic. Thank you so much for offering that, Susan.
Susan Lindner: You bet.
Holly Hester-Reilly: All right. Thanks again and I hope our listeners will have a wonderful time with this.
Susan Lindner: Thanks so much. Holly, take care.
Holly Hester-Reilly: You too. Product Science Podcast is brought to you by H2R Product Science. We teach startup founders and product leaders how to use the product science method to discover the strongest product opportunities and lay the foundations for high-growth products, teams and businesses. Learn more at Enjoying this episode? Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s episode. I also encourage you to visit us at to sign up for more information and resources from me and our guests. If you love the show a rating and a review would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.