A building is only as strong as its foundation. The same is true for relationships, education and business. One of the core foundational components of any successful business is organizational alignment.
Organizations founded upon and aligned around a set of core values and a clear vision tend to lead industries. From our experience as a PR firm in the tech industry, alignment can be achieved through a strategic narrative that defines a new or existing industry category.
Unfortunately, and speaking from experience, many B2B tech companies lack a clear consistent industry narrative and keep their focus completely inward. While most employees can probably spout off a common mission statement or 30-second elevator pitch about the products or services, the company vision for the industry (the ‘why’) is often absent or not clear. While it’s a good thing to develop messaging around products and services, this is not going to serve as a company alignment function.
Further, a lack of alignment around core company messaging is the bane of many CEO’s existence – especially when the goal is a market-leading position that can lead to a high-value acquisition or IPO. This is why it is essential that an organization tell its story with a clear, concise narrative that focuses not on what the company does, but on leading the advancement of the industry category.
Taking Action on Your Narrative
When a company is aligned around the category it becomes the singular, solid foundation for goals, strategy and execution. This is important, because not only does it provide alignment on a day-to-day level, but it can play a significant role in product development, raising funds and finding the right people to join the company. The connected energy that comes from a clear and authentic industry vision can be priceless.
So, how does an organization identify and define a category? There are a lot of ways to get started, but one is to get key stakeholders from every area of the business into a room and dig into what is happening in the industry – the trends, perceptions and misperceptions. By focusing on the role a company plays within an industry category, a narrative begins to form that reveals company vision.
We like to call this process a discovery session (formally called a ‘Strategic Narrative Messaging Workshop’). It’s a full day process, and it helps to have a third party run it to keep it on track. You can read step-by-step instructions for the workshop in our book. You will be surprised by what emerges from the different stakeholders and you’ll start to see some core, repeated themes that tie directly to the vision.
If you want to build a solid foundation and create alignment, it’s most important to know that it’s a marathon process, and company stakeholders will need to be patient. It will take some time and several iterations to land on and define an industry category. Then comes the heavy lifting to build a clear narrative to support it.
Getting everyone on board internally with the new messaging is the first step toward alignment. The narrative is meant to be your company’s rallying point. You want each and every employee to understand the category and see how the narrative relates to them. You want to aim for 100 percent clarity on the company’s vision. Internal alignment alone has been invaluable for numerous clients of Catapult.
The internal rollout of the narrative is meant to be shared with each and every employee. It requires clear directions and insights into how they can fold it into their day-to-day work and why it’s important. The narrative also needs to be shareable through company communications and social media. You can encourage employees to share the narrative by providing sample social media posts or social media software that automates sharing for employees.
Further, the category narrative needs to be evangelized in the market and accepted by industry thought leaders and influencers. There are detailed strategy and action plans we’ve created to accomplish this which we’ve talked about a lot. The good news is that after some time the narrative will naturally drive the company messaging, and all teams will be aligned on the vision. Externally, the organization will be known for advancing the industry category that it helped define.
It’s never too late to take a shot at defining a new category and supporting industry narrative. The intentional act of category building — through a strategic narrative — is a great way to frame and communicate your company’s vision while, at the same time, aligning your company. As a key foundational element to your business, you will see a new level of consistency and collaboration when everyone is aligned.