Companies Don't Change - People Do
It's getting ever more challenging to keep on top of changing customer needs. To add to the fun, the needs of employees are changing too. For perhaps for the first time in a generation, leaders are faced with having to contend with this perfect storm, a battle on two fronts. How do we help our changing employees deal with a changing company in a changing world?
Introducing the Corporate Narrative
The idea of a corporate narrative is born from a journey a company wants to take. When you think of the word 'narration,' you might think of a speaker taking us on a journey as they explain or describe a sequence of events to us, usually one that is unfolding as we speak.
A corporate narrative is different from a story, which traditionally has a fixed ending. A corporate narrative should often focus on future change, customer needs or a seismic, longer-term shift. It is unclear what's going to happen. The 'ending' of the narrative depends on what actions people take. The purpose of the narrative is how the organisation should prepare for and embrace these actions.
Wow, deep! Why is this important?
The Importance of Corporate Narrative
Although corporate narrative isn't the same as telling a story, it is a form of storytelling. As a leader, you're setting the scene and inviting a call to action. One of the best ways adults learn is through storytelling. If you create and communicate a compelling corporate narrative, it has the power to inspire every employee, no matter how invested they are in what you do.
On a more tactical note, corporate narratives support organisational strategy. They work alongside more tangible strategic elements such as a vision, mission, purpose, and business goals. A corporate narrative brings these things to life in a more human and emotive way that your people can connect with.
Sounds great! So, how do I make a corporate narrative?
How to Create a Corporative Narrative
The best corporate narratives have a human touch, and they focus on people, not the organisation. The Harvard Business Review explains this as touching on human connection, a shared purpose, and alignment with your brand's DNA (the vision or other top-level strategic and cultural initiatives).
Consider the macro-need. What is changing in the world, or what does your organisation need to be aware of or planning for? Then, flick to the end goal. What do you want people to think? Work backwards from there and seek a connection between people and the organisation. How can your brand, vision, purpose, and principles drive this call to action?
It isn't easy to do this, and you might need more than a light shower of creative juice. Many organisations hire an external branding agency to develop a catchy narrative. It's money well-spent. (Time for a cheap plug 😊 – you can see how we help clients create what we call Inspiring Stories by clicking here)
So, what does a great corporate narrative sound like when all is said and done? Take these two famous examples. Regardless of its rather grim origins, Nike's 'Just Do It' campaign of 1988 created a powerful statement that anyone and everyone can get fit, that they should just 'do it. Thinking beyond a tagline, Nike was saying that whatever our next step to fitness might be – getting off the sofa, going for a bike ride, or even running a marathon – we should just do it. That's the narrative.
Apple's 1997 'Think Different' campaign specifically eschewed 'Think Differently' because the former was more open to interpretation. The company's new CEO, Steve Jobs, wanted people to consider the changing technological times and herald optimism. The narrative encouraged people to think outside the box, in whatever walk of life they choose. The slogan was also a not-too-subtle dig at IBM's long-running 'Think' campaign.
Both 'Just Do It' and 'Think Different' is still used today, a testament to their longevity and impact. A good narrative stands the test of time and can be used in response to various episodes of change. Creating a great narrative begins with understanding your people – your customers, employees, and other stakeholders invested in your organisational purpose. Essentially, it's built on empathy. Understand the needs of people and how they change, and a strong narrative will follow.