Communications and PR people get the importance of narrative. You don’t need to convince us, it’s the world we live in. Stories shape and redefine our companies, our clients, the industry we are in and the industries we represent. Our day-to-day work involves digging up those narratives, editing them, analyzing them and acting with the story as the backbone of our activity.
Therefore, when the marketing team creates a plan or the PR agency comes in and creates a messaging strategy, we get excited. These plans focus on taking a company’s messaging and elevating it. Through every communication effort, the goal is now to contribute to a narrative that casts vision for the industry as a whole. Often this involves creating a new category.
Our teams, made up of creatives, writers, trend-spotters and relationship builders, quickly understand the value of Strategic Narrative Marketing and are willing to get behind a strategy to build a new category and champion an industry narrative.
That’s the easy part, convincing the CMO and aligning the marketing team. The hard part is convincing the rest of the company.
Here are some ways communications and PR pros can bring the rest of the company on board with a category building effort because it does require the whole company’s commitment to succeed.
Educate, educate, educate
Let’s say you work at a software company creating financial tools for business owners. You, your CEO and the PR firm have uncovered an incredible vision for your marketplace where business owners never have to worry about financial administration and they can instead focus their time on customers and making their dreams a reality. You decide to launch a new category of financial software called Virtual Business Management.
At this point you’ve spent hours and hours in meetings, researching and planning to make this vision come alive. You fully understand how this vision is going to make a difference for business owners out there, but what about the developers who have not been a part of any of these meetings? What about the sales team, which is supposed to carry this message and call people up on the phone to chat about it?
They need to know what you know. Sharing the why and the how is important. Those folks need the context and the background in order to build enthusiasm and help each person play his or her role with more authenticity. A sales team member must understand what he is selling to be effective.
What’s in it for them?
Human nature is selfish after all and one of the best ways to get buy-in for your ideas is to focus on the other person — how will he or she benefit?
This is actually easy when it comes to describing the benefits of making your organization an industry leader. Everyone wants to work for the best. So there’s your first argument. Creating a category launches organizations into a whole new playing field where they lead the competition and define success. Who wouldn’t want to play for the winning team?
We all know that the success of the company means success for each employee, whether pay-out comes in the form of pride or bragging rights about your place of work, or in more tangible ways such as a bonus check at Christmastime. But it’s more than just reaping the benefits of the overall success of the company.
Other perks for employees of category-building companies include:
- Getting to contribute to a truly innovative and company-changing movement.
- Fully understanding the company vision and not having to question, “where are we going?” or “Are my objectives and assignments going to change anytime soon?”
- A sense of belonging and security. An industry narrative acts as an umbrella and envelops each individual in an organization.
- Better communication and teamwork between departments as everyone is working toward a clearly defined goal.
Define the roles everyone will play
In spite of its name, Strategic Narrative Marketing is not just a marketing effort. It requires the support of company executives and the momentum of every individual contributor. Aligning the company to move full steam ahead in an effort to better an industry, means everyone has a job to do.
Now in order to get to work, there will be a number of deliverables for marketing and PR, but also many for executives, sales, dev, ops and other areas of the business. You might need the CEO or VP of Engineering to take on some thought leadership initiatives like publishing a study or speaking at events. You will need the developers to understand why they have requests for new features. And you will certainly need the Sales Team to update slide presentations and value props accordingly.
By laying this out clearly or working with managers of each team to set up a brief training or presentation of new objectives, you’ll make everyone’s job easier in the long run.
While some workers are resistant to change, often it’s because they worry that their role will become more difficult, that they may not be able to perform as well given new goals or that they will be replaced. By thoroughly taking care of the steps above, you’ll assuage those fears for your coworkers. By seeing the benefits, understanding the part they play and understanding the complete vision, your coworkers will be much more likely to jump on board with a new category building initiative and more enthusiastic about moving forward with the new plan.
A good attitude is contagious and this is an exciting time for your company. You know when you’ve struck gold and building a new category is a great way to launch your organization out of the box in a way that inspires the industry and resonates with customers.
Last bit of advice is to stay the course. Like any good work, there can be ups-and-downs and days where you might question the plan. Rolling out a new category takes time, however, and (let’s be honest) you are at the helm of leading your company in the right direction. Believe it or not, your coworkers are following you and trusting your communications know-how to lead the way in this effort, it’s your area of expertise after all. Stay in it for the long haul and as the benefits start to stack up, you’ll see your whole organization on board in no time.
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