Most people haven’t heard of a scrappy little ski company called Renoun, but we gave it a lot of space in this issue -- a story about founder Cyrus Schenck. I bet you’re wondering: How did Schenck pull that off?
I’m going to tell you.
Why? I owe it to you. Magazines like Entrepreneur are designed to help readers navigate their world, and we do that in journalistic ways -- talking to experts, interviewing successful entrepreneurs and so on. But we forget that to people in business, we are also a mystery in need of solving. How do editors think? How are decisions made? And so, each month, I’m going to explain our process on this page -- the space where, in most magazines, the boss pens an advertisement for the issue you’ve already purchased. (Here’s a trade secret: Many editors hate writing those letters. Some even outsource it to underlings.)
I hope my column can be more useful. So let’s get back to Renoun. What is it doing in this issue?
The explanation begins with the word package. That’s magazine-speak for a series of related stories, which run together across any number of pages. Magazines use packages to explore broad themes -- “Let’s do a package on…” is a common sentence in edit meetings -- and they create openings for different stories. This can be good for companies seeking coverage: If I hear about something that doesn’t work as a stand-alone profile (like a tiny ski company), it might fit into a package some months later. But this can also cause confusion. A publicist just emailed me, citing a story we did earlier this year about a company similar to her client’s. Might that mean we’re interested in her client’s business, too? Sorry, no: That old story made sense for us only in the context of the package it ran in. The moment had passed.
We usually run one package an issue. Back in July -- that’s how far out monthly mags are planned -- we decided that our November package would be about how founders rebounded from their first big mistake. Contributing editor Stephanie Schomer oversees these, and she emailed a lot of writers asking for ideas.
One of those writers was Clint Carter. He’d just gone to a Snowsports Industries of America event, scouting stories for Men’s Journal. While there, he saw a guy cover his hand in pink goo, then lay it flat on a table and slam it with a mallet. The goo was a fast-hardening polymer, which protected his hand. Ta-da! And this seemingly crazy person, of course, was Cyrus Schenck. Intrigued, Clint introduced himself. The two later exchanged emails. Nothing came of it for Men’s Journal, but when Clint got Stephanie’s email, he wondered if Cyrus might have a compelling tale about his mistakes. So Clint met Cyrus for a beer, then relayed what he learned to Stephanie, who relayed it to me. I said yes because Cyrus was willing to be so open and vulnerable -- and because his tale is worth learning from.
Not every entrepreneur can do this. One founder promised he would, so I assigned a story about him for this month’s package. But during the interview, he kept steering the conversation toward his successes and away from his screwups. I understand the impulse -- it takes guts to admit your failures. But we couldn’t use his story. It isn’t in this issue.
When entrepreneurs ask me for media advice, I tell them to embrace their full saga. Reporters don’t just want to hear success stories; they want to hear problem-solving stories. The reason isn’t because we thirst for drama; it’s because “Here’s how I did this” is way more interesting than “Here’s why I’m awesome.” Think about it: Which would you rather read? No matter the issue, that’s the story you should tell.