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The power of a company narrative

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Creating an authentic, compelling narrative that inspires your audience to take action, and let them know who you are, is tricky. But get it right and this might just be the most powerful tool that stands between you and the rest of the crowd.

One of the biggest challenges companies face is their narrative. If you look closely, not everyone has one — they just think they do. The issue is that it’s a time-consuming task that can only really truly come from the leadership team, who will put it on the back burner because they’re too busy. They don’t have time to work through their mission and vision, their employee branding strategy, why they exist in the first place. Half the time this will get passed over to a roundtable of creatives who aren’t best-placed to make these decisions.

The bottom line is that most people out there just don’t truly get what a narrative is. The first mistake companies make is thinking of a narrative as a story. Marketing departments will even tell you it’s the company’s story, and yet a story has an ending. A narrative should be open-ended because let’s face it your business should be ever-evolving and moving with the times. There will always be challenges to face, ongoing processes, new developments, the goal posts will always change.

The second mistake companies make is who the narrative is aimed at — spoiler alert it’s about (or should be about) the audience. Think of a narrative as an opportunity to identify how your business can speak to and inspire others, but first you need to understand your audience.

Very few get it right, but if we look at an example, Apple is best-in-class. They packaged their narrative up into their slogan ‘Think Different'. But let’s break this down. It’s not just simply taking it at word value, or calling it a strapline which is basically no more than a fluffed-up marketing campaign — we’re looking at you, Nike. Think back to the early days when you were running with your trusty CD Walkman, and it would skip a track when you moved too fast. Think about when you discovered your new iPod could hold “a thousand songs in your pocket”, and the Nano you could strap to your arm didn’t skip tracks when you ran to the beat. Recall Steve Jobs’ enthusiasm at how this tiny little device was different. It was catapulting not a generation, but the world, into a new digital handheld age – hands-up who’d be lost without their iPhone – and how this different device was echoing that original consumer frustration. Thinking different was giving people an answer. Solving a problem. Inspiring. THAT was their narrative and still is to this day.

Then you look at businesses, and entire industries, who haven’t quite cracked it. I believe that no recruitment agency out there has a substantial or meaningful narrative. Sure, they’ll publish fancy slogans, shout about how great they are or how big their company is, and that they care about their clients. Do they really care? Would they care so much if the large fees weren’t attached? Of course not, because that’s what they’re in it for — but an honest narrative that they just care about the money and little else isn’t going to inspire clients or instill trust. If we think of a narrative as a powerful tool, that’s a powerful way of losing business.

It’s not just recruitment. Sadly there are very few companies out there who have really nailed it. And it’s not surprising — it’s hard, really hard.

But what can you do?

If you’re serious about addressing your narrative you need three things: time, understanding, humility. It’s hard going to really dig deep into the soul of your company, what your true mission and vision is, what you can offer that people truly want, what solution are you offering, and package this all up into something that the external party can understand and be inspired by. You need to articulate it and make it believable — and your employees who are projecting it need to believe it and understand it too.

If you can harness your narrative, you will have a much stronger advantage over anyone who chooses to ignore the opportunity to put in the work. Your employees and leadership team will all have a deeper understanding of the company’s core beliefs, drive and ambitions, and this will filter through to your audience who will better understand and be inspired by the service you’re providing. Why wouldn’t you take the time to get it right?

And this is just the start, I think I could write a meaty ebook on the subject. But if you simply want to chat more. Find me on LinkedIn or Twitter

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