December 19, 2011
Every organization must have something to say. We call this its ‘corporate narrative’. In our content-led, inbound-marketing world, the importance of the corporate narrative is paramount. You’ve got to be clear on what you want your audience to understand, before you start to say it.
The problem is many companies have no clear narrative. Sometimes they have nothing to say – no vision of the future or how they are going to change the world. Sometimes, they have a cacophony of conflicting messages and voices. Often, they have a muddled story that makes little sense or is down in the weeds.
There’s no point having a sophisticated, multi-channel communications plan, if what you are communicating doesn’t connect your audience with your business objectives.
Here are five tips for creating a corporate narrative which packs a punch:
It’s hard for your audience to get motivated about a small change in the world. We’ve come to expect incremental improvements in all aspects of our lives. No-one is going to get excited about the next baby step. So aim high. Ask yourself, what will the world be like if you are wildly successful? And by contrast, if your organization didn’t exist, what significant problem would go unsolved? Salesforce.com didn’t set out to improve the Customer Relationship Management market – it wanted to ‘End Software’. It still does. If you want us to believe in you, you’ve got to have something big to believe in.
There’s no point changing the world for a tiny number of people. A person can do that. An organization needs to move mountains, disrupt industries, leave a historic legacy. So make your narrative touch as many lives, industries, behaviors, processes as possible. This instantly gives you a larger crowd to rally to your cause.
Ask yourself, what is the megatrend we are creating or tapping into? Research the data to show this is going to happen. Give your audience a foundation for their faith. Arm them with evidence they can use first to convince themselves, then to convert others. Create an ‘air of inevitability’ around your organization so that what it says will come true, is already happening.
Work on the narrative until you’ve boiled it down to one sentence (of eight words or fewer). Then it stands a chance of being remembered. If you can’t do that, it’s not simple enough. Sure, you’ll lose all the wonderful nuance which makes your proposition so compelling and differentiated. But you’ll gain traction. Once you have your audience’s attention, then you can expand on your premise. The corporate narrative needs a sharp edge.
Build a narrative which has some shelf life. It’s got to have a few chapters to it, not just be one story you wish was out there in the market. Aim for a narrative which will suit the company for the short- and medium-term, which relates to each part of the business, so the organization can speak in unison.
Each milestone within the company must point to the narrative, be evidence of its coming to pass. For example, a narrative about being the hot new entrant disrupting an established market, might be too time-bound. In six months, you won’t be new any more. Instead, build the narrative around how that industry is evolving, and use your company as an example. Spinning it on its head gives you more scope.
Having a corporate narrative is essential if you are going to get the desired outcomes from your communications. Time spent here has a multiplier effect on the campaign’s performance. Our industry tends, quite rightly, to be action-oriented, so this essential step is often skipped or curtailed. Hopefully this framework helps you develop a compelling corporate narrative which works for your organization and which resonates with your audience.