Is Your Corporate Narrative Alive or Dead?

Posted by: in Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy on September 15, 2014

Stop me if you’ve heard these before:

  • If your company’s not growing, it’s shrinking.
  • If you’re not going forward, you’re going backward.
  • Get busy living, or get busy dying. (Thanks Andy.)

We’ve all heard corporate platitudes like these, urging leaders and companies to grow, to continue their evolution, to search for new inspiration, and to resist – with every fiber – any kind of stagnation.

Don’t rest on your laurels. We haven’t “arrived” yet. It’s time to adapt or die.

In addition, we’ve seen that a critical area for organizational success is having a clear and persuasive story (a corporate narrative) about who and what you are. So why doesn’t this sense of urgency to innovate and reach the next level translate into a company’s core narrative? How can the company move forward, innovate and evolve without the story of that company doing the same?

In its purest form, the corporate narrative is an internal script describing the organization and serving as a touchstone for how the company wants to be communicated to its audiences. It also is a guide for all company communications, be it media relations, marketing, executive presentations, organizational announcements or social media. It is the story of the company – the facts of what it is, what makes it unique and why it’s vital, but told in human terms. It helps ensure alignment and make sense of multiple moving parts and competing interests within an organization.

Unlike white papers or books or articles, which can remain static for posterity and reflection, a corporate narrative must live and breathe with the company it seeks to define. The narrative provides a context for how people view your business, how its covered and the ways in which it’s characterized.

To ignore that narrative is to allow the story of your company to gather dust, ultimately devolving into a strong and lasting statement of what your company had been. Wouldn’t you rather be in the position of defining what is and what will be?

Company narratives should not change with every town hall meeting or CNN interview, but neither should the focus of your products or employees. Having studied and been a part of numerous corporate narrative development exercises, here are a few key events that can trigger the need for a narrative review:

  • Executive leadership changes: more often than not, new leaders have unique visions for their companies
  • Large-scale mergers or acquisitions: new employee- and customer-bases need the stability of a consistent company story
  • Rebranding: corporate narratives and rebranding go hand-in-hand
  • New product releases or market entries: it’s important to understand how these developments might alter your company’s story
  • Defining issues: part of a strong issues management strategy should be to look beyond the immediate issue, and examine how messaging will fit with or change the corporate narrative
  • Competitive moves: not every move, but those that shift the game for the segment or industry
  • New business models: contrary to popular belief, business models often change to highlight new and competitive competencies, and may affect the company’s core narrative

Beyond these specific items, it’s wise to listen and discern how your company or brand is being talked about (online and offline) for clues on whether your story or narrative needs to shift.

If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your corporate narrative, then it may be time to take another look and help it get busy living … before it gets busy dying.

By: Adam Pedowitz

A New Jersey native, Adam is a Director in WCG's Corporate & Strategy team in Austin, Texas.

Find me on: Twitter
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