Nobody knows your story because you don't know your story
I hear it from organizations all the time. “Nobody knows our story.”
To help, I go investigating. Sometimes it’s identifying those subtle issues that are easily overlooked but can be at the root of an organization’s story not having the reach and impact that it could.
More often than not, it’s not something lurking in the shadows. Escaping inspection. It tends to be something in plain sight. Not hidden. But not apparent at ground level.
The challenge is revealed when we ask, “What is the story?” Not just to the President or CEO. It is a question that must be asked across the organization.
It’s not unusual for the leadership team to point to the mission. Sales will give you the selling proposition that they use. HR will repeat the internal campaign they have developed. And marketing will tell you it’s this quarter’s campaign theme.
Each of these perspectives is usually loosely interrelated. Each is valid. Unfortunately, they also create an indiscernible cacophony when a prospect (either customer or team member) tries to understand what this organization is about. Let alone why they should care.
Building a unifying theme
To build a unifying theme, there is no better place to start than with the brand. The brand is your story. If you get it right here, you’ll get it right everywhere.
This is a story that must transcend any one department, division, or audience. More importantly, it must be inspiring. It must be inspiring for a prospective customer just as it should be inspiring for a team member celebrating her 20th anniversary with the company.
That puts a heavy expectation on this story. Which is why it demands careful consideration. It must demonstrate that it is relevant in today’s environment, unique in your industry, believable coming from your organization, and valuable to all individuals who could potentially engage with you.
When you consider this task at hand, it becomes evident that this story must have purpose (I call it a Big Audacious Meaning). It is the only way to fulfill the expectation that will be placed on it.
As you inquire about the story in all corners of the organization, you'll start to find clues to that Big Audacious Meaning. You'll start to see the story sketched out.
Asking this question across your organization is one of the most revealing exercises. Of course, it is just part of the process, proving valuable as long as the story that emerges is where the company should be headed.
Furthermore, the process itself can yield benefits most organizations overlook. As the story gets refined, everyone can hear echoes of their contribution. As a result, it helps build adoption and enthusiasm.
It's exciting to see one compelling story emerge. It's exciting to see people from diverse divisions tell the same story. The most exciting moment is when a total stranger tells your story for you in a Tweet, an update, or a post. They know your story! Because you know your story.
Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.