Ravishankar Iyer

#SOTD 53: Clear messages in Airbnb's shareholder letter

publishedabout 2 months ago
1 min read

On May 4th, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky posted an arresting tweet:

From an 80% drop in business to a quarter with a $1.2B cash flow - impressive!

Everyone loves a good turnaround story. In the rest of the thread Brian laid down the key initiatives that led to the turnaround. These included cost cutting initiatives, smarter marketing and leveraging the tailwinds from the work-from-anywhere revolution.

But more than the Twitter thread, I was interested in reading the shareholder letter that Brian appended to the thread. It offered some great lessons in data-storytelling.

Here for instance is how they showcased their financial performance:

Notice the clear headline messages for each para. In one line each, you get to know the performance of four key parameters - revenue, profit/loss, EBITDA and cash flow. If you have more time you can go through the detailed points in the para.

Another observation: Under each message, they have written only a short para giving brief details of the key performance drivers - not a massive deep-dive that distracts from the top level indicators. Give folks the big picture first, details later.

Also, consider a similar treatment given to the business highlights section (emphasis mine):

Notice the use of clear summarising messages on the top of each para. Again makes it easier for the audience to quickly 'get' what the performance highlights are.

Whether it is a slide, an email or a shareholder letter, you can always use the principle of summarising messages to make it quick and easy for your audience to understand.

#SOTD 53


PS: Here is the context for #SOTD and the 'Ultimate Guide to Storytelling Techniques' framework I use - in case you joined this series late! Here is the archive of previous posts. Click here to subscribe.