What’s Your Story? The Importance of the Business Narrative

Last week I gave a presentation to the local Chamber’s leadership class. My topic? How to craft a  powerful message. But, it occurred to me that perhaps “messaging” wasn’t the best way to talk about what is needed today.

What we need today is real-life, real-world stories that not only tell us who you are, but how our connection will be mutually beneficial. Your business narrative or elevator pitch should compel usto ask questions and wonder how you do what you do and why. And, it should make us want to remember it. 

Unfortunately in my 25 years of communications consulting I find that no matter the environment, far too many businesses balk at taking the time to identify their story, the most powerful language they could use in light of their business, market and customer base, and, yes, their messages. 

I have seen boards of directors spend an hour arguing over the color of a brochure. Yet, when it comes to devising their elevator pitch they are only willing to spend 45 minutes in between the financial report and the coffee break. 

If you are only willing to spend less than an hour on your story, then you can expect to get an equal return. In short, not much attention. 

So, I challenge all of us – before the holiday parties begin – to think long and hard about who we are, what we do, and why we are different.  

Also, you should be able to do it in less than 10 seconds (to a reporter), less than 140 characters (on Twitter) and at an impromptu run-in to that potential client at the holiday party. 

Below are three key things to think about when crafting your story.

  1. Does it differentiate you from the competition?
  2. Do you really deliver what you say? Are you being truthful?
  3. Is it compelling? Really. Why would anyone care?

Give it some thought. It’s worth it.

Do You Trust Your Employees Online?

Unless you’ve been under a rock at the bottom of the sea, you have been witnessing a fundamental shift in how organizations are telling their story and by whom.

Thanks to social networks, corporate brands and customer interaction are becoming increasingly tied to the individuals who work for them.  Individual employees, once hidden behind a corporate veil, are now taking the reins, empowered through new technologies and media to communicate with and solve problems for customers, shape brands, and tout their expertise. They are the new forward face of business.

Today, the very brand of a company is being built from the bottom up. For instance if you conduct a quick search of LinkedIn for any major company name, dozens (if not hundreds) of individual profiles will come up. Type in “Caterpillar” and more than 4,600 profiles emerge of individuals who work (or worked) for the company. Those profiles give a LinkedIn visitor a sense of the company.  

And, this is why we believe we have hit a wall of fear among executives in corporate America over social media and social networking. We hear that an individual’s presence online, uncontrolled and not directed is, well, scary.

But, corporate America will need to prepare itself for the rise of the worker who is empowered over what is possible – versus what is permissible – with today’s new technology landscape.

Some people – the early adopters – are even tapping into social networks and adopting the corporate spokesman role without being told to or getting permission (which only rachets up the fear factor.) We have found this is usually not out of defiance, but rather, out of a sincere passion to engage with others and advance their careers, profession and employers.  So, for the first time ever, we may have reached a place in corporate America where saying we trust our employees will be finally proven or not.

As Charlene Li stated in her book, Open Leadership, “A key difference today is that a new generation of workers is coming of age that believes ‘sharingness’ is next to—or more important than – godliness.” Do you trust them to share? Who do you believe it doing a good job of trusting their employees as the forward face?