Four Lessons Learned From Strategic Narrative Marketing

It has been a couple of years since we (Catapult) formally launched Strategic Narrative Marketing. What a roller coaster ride it has been to introduce something totally new to the PR market! If one thing is clear today- it’s that Strategic Narrative Marketing is our true differentiator as a PR firm.

Along with our journey, we’ve had the opportunity to refine and adapt Strategic Narrative Marketing. If you’re new here, Strategic Narrative Marketing is an approach to company messaging that examines the industry rather than the company to create a marketing narrative that is unique and benefits the industry at-large. The approach is based on an industry category or framework that is the foundation for building strategic and targeted marketing collateral and tactics as part of a larger industry leadership campaign — while simultaneously defining the company’s vision and what it stands for.

Creating and launching Strategic Narrative Marketing became a case study in itself. We decided to ‘eat our own dogfood’ so-to-speak and follow the approach that we created to help companies stand out in the market. Offering something completely new is risky and you leave yourself vulnerable to critics, but we began to reap the benefits of this huge opportunity to stand out and offer something different. Now, if you Google, “Strategic Narrative Marketing,” you’ll see that Catapult owns that digital space.

We’ve learned a lot over the past couple of years, and here are some of the key takeaways:

  1. New ideas take time to stick
    After we launched Strategic Narrative Marketing, it didn’t take off overnight. We expected some time for impact, but the reality is that we had to be patient and consistent because it required a concerted PR and marketing effort. The same has been true for our clients. New ideas don’t typically go viral right away – you need to build on top of the foundation. Setting up building blocks for success has been part of the fun too – it takes a constant stream of content, social media, articles, development of media and analyst relationships before a narrative can secure its place in the industry as a legitimate approach to addressing issues, solving challenges, or guiding the future direction of the market.Post-launch is also a great time to learn. Sometimes the message evolves based on feedback from other thought leaders or perhaps a survey or study is in order to further support the narrative with data. Either way, it takes time and grit for a narrative to become a mainstay in an industry.
  2. You need to be different to stand out
    In order to make Catapult stand out, we had to think differently and we built our narrative around something that was not being said among our peers- that PR needs to own company positioning and messaging!There are always opportunities for differentiation and new ways of thinking – whether that’s starting a brand new conversation in the industry, or taking a new spin on an established conversation. However, the opportunity is not always easy to see when you are in the thick of it all – and sometimes it takes a third party to help bring it out.Don’t forget that every industry is plagued with noise. We hear it from every potential client that we talk to. They gripe about industry tradeshows, blogs, social media and publications where everyone is saying the same thing in different ways. Unless you are an Amazon, Facebook or Google it’s nearly impossible to break through the noise.
  3.  Buy in needs to start at the top
    In order to get the support needed to build a successful industry narrative, it is essential to have buy-in from the top-down. When the CEO is excited about the messaging they will support the efforts to make it a success. They are the strongest force in getting the entire company wrapped around an idea and are often the key to getting the necessary resources for success.
  4. Amplification and evangelism are critical to success
    After you introduce an industry narrative in the form of a category or framework, you need to be its greatest evangelist at first. We learned pretty fast that no one else was going to start talking about it unless they see it everywhere, and it was (and still is) our job to spread the word. This can be a trying process (see lesson #1), but it will only be successful if the organization sticks with it and has the support of all essential parties. The more eyes that see your narrative, the better shot you have at it being picked up by someone else – the ultimate sign that it is making an impact.

Our journey has been full of ups and downs, but we truly believe our biggest lessons learned will become our greatest strengths. And, at the end of the day, we have the privilege of offering a unique differentiator to the PR industry.

Interested in learning how you can break through the noise and say something different? Check out our book, A Practical Guide to Strategic Narrative Marketing.

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