Rising StarRising Star: Brian Hennessy of Talkoot Wants to Help Consumer Brands Keep Their Story Straight

Brian Hennessy - Talkoot
Brian Hennessy, Founder of Talkoot.

Stories come in all shapes and sizes. All of us have our own life stories, and then we have the smaller stories that comprise our day-to-day.

Similarly, consumer product companies are constantly communicating stories to their customers—from big brand stories to smaller stories about the evolution of a single product.

But Brian Hennessy, a recent graduate of the 2014 Gorge OEN Bootcamp, thinks that most of these companies could be doing a better job. He doesn’t want to just tell a company’s stories, he wants to make those stories sing—preferably in harmony. His software tool, Talkoot, aims to do just that.

Here’s more from Brian:

The spark that inspired the birth of Talkoot: I’ve had the idea for a long time, but it only came together recently. I was the head writer at adidas for six years and came to understand how storytelling needed to stay consistent throughout an organization, from a company’s brand, to its product categories, to its collections, to its individual products and technologies. My team was writing our part, other agencies were writing their parts, and it all came together at the last minute. In the end, we’d have five different campaigns each telling its own story. Nothing was syncing up. Even when everyone was doing great work, it usually came across sounding schizophrenic and disjointed to the end consumer.

I’m constantly learning things I didn’t know I didn’t know.” (Tweet this.)

What Talkoot does and how it works: Talkoot is a collaborative, cloud-based writing tool that helps agencies and writing teams within large consumer brands write, edit, translate and approve copy quickly and at scale. In other words, it’s a tool that can help brands create seamless, omnichannel stories for their customers. With Talkoot, you can make sure every ecommerce description, tweet, facebook post, banner ad and retail headline are singing from the same brand-relevant, legal-checked songbook.

What differentiates you from your competition: The behemoths like IBM, Citrix, and Microsoft all offer content management systems, but they are so complicated and difficult to use, no one actually writes in them. Most of the leading consumer brands we talked to in our market validation interviews wrote their copy in MS Word or Excel, then cut and pasted it into these types of systems. Talkoot doesn’t replace those big, grey enterprise-wide systems. It provides a high-functioning, human-friendly front end that makes it easier and faster to feed those systems the kinds of great stories that sell products.

How you came up with the name: “Talkoot” is a Finnish word that means a gathering of friends and neighbors for a common purpose.

The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: I’m surprised every single day. I’ve been running Thread, my own content marketing agency, for a while now and I got very good at it. Launching a tech company, however, is very different. I’m constantly learning things I didn’t know I didn’t know. The world is constantly resetting for me, and I always feel like I’m walking into the unknown. It’s unnerving at times, but it can be an amazing experience if you keep the right perspective.

The best thing about being an entrepreneur: Not having to feed the crazy. In the past I’ve taken on work—both freelance projects and full time positions—that paid well, but I wasn’t really inspired by. Now, the hours are long and the future is less certain, but I get to show up everyday to a job I love and work on projects I believe in with people I really like being around.

The biggest challenge: Managing expectations. I have to be vigilant about keeping Talkoot simple. My employees at Thread who are piloting Talkoot have so many great ideas, but if we try to solve too many problems, the tool will become unwieldy.

Next big milestone: Clients. We’ll be piloting the system with adidas, but we need a few more clients to test drive the software.

Benefits of starting a business in Oregon: There’s an amazing network of creative all stars here, who are very open about teaming up and sharing ideas and expertise.

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