Strategic Narrative and Category Building are Front and Center for CEOs

Messaging and positioning are more than just marketing’s priorities

These last few years I’ve seen Catapult go in and help organizations create strategic narrative messaging and execute PR efforts that lead markets and create new categories. In that time, I’ve noticed some patterns in the way that organizations 1) realize they need help with telling their story, 2) reach out to third parties to gain an outside perspective and, 3) involve executive leadership to implement the strategies and ensure success.  It is interesting to see who at an organization champions the work Catapult does from start to finish – particularly when it comes to messaging.

Typically, by the time we’ve started rolling out the execution of a strategic narrative, a couple of months down the road, everybody’s happy. Results such as internal alignment around a mission and goal, increased industry awareness and credibility, or even competitors taking notice and repeating the messaging, are affirming for everyone. There is no denying, however, that bringing in an outside agency can ruffle some feathers at first for in-house folks.

That’s certainly not always the case. In many instances, in-house teams are relieved to have help as they are overburdened with duties, so offloading some of the work is welcome. But when it comes to messaging and market positioning, that’s the heart of an organization. The stakes are high, and often the messaging is kept close to the top executives. It’s something the highest-level stakeholders are interested in shaping, monitoring and creating, and working on messaging is a privilege for all those involved.

Team members, especially in marketing, may feel that this is their job and that outsourcing messaging work is a failure on their part. In fact, it is most often the CEO at an organization, with a bird’s eye view, who sees the need to start a Strategic Narrative Marketing initiative. Once the seed is planted that there is an opportunity to define and assume market category leadership, it’s very hard for the CEO to let go of this aspirational goal.

Typically, we work closest with marketing teams. With their heads down in campaigns, lead generation and event coordination, these folks will be the first to admit they don’t have the control they’d like over corporate-level messaging that drives the long-term vision at their company. Just like in our personal lives, everyday activities get in the way of pausing, stepping back and looking at the big picture and where, ultimately, we want to be in the future.

CEOs, in contrast, are tasked with looking at the big picture and seeing whether product development, business operations, sales and marketing are in sync. How are technical priorities aligned with customer feedback, and how do market reports forecast the future of their industry? The position a CEO’s company holds in the market weighs on him/her on a daily basis. And CEOs seem to know that the narrative is the glue that holds the company’s brand together, the rudder that steers the organization into the future and the valuation determinant — the difference of millions, billions or more.  It takes that kind of foresight to call in Catapult and schedule a strategic narrative workshop.

And let’s not discredit marketing folks, no doubt, they see this too. But let’s be honest — it’s the CEO who has the say-so to elevate the priority of messaging for everyone on the payroll. The CEO understands that:

  • Yes, the marketing team probably is overburdened, and working with an outside agency will provide a fresh perspective that, ultimately, will make marketing’s job much easier.
  • It’s time for a fresh set of eyes! We all know that having an outsider’s opinion (not just anyone, but an expert who has experience in your field) adds immense value to any project.
  • It will require buy-in from the whole organization. By taking the lead, the CEO ensures priority for the effort.
  • Messaging and positioning work is not the solution for a marketing problem, it doesn’t always indicate a problem, it is simply a new beginning and way to think bigger and take the business to the next level.
  • Strategic Narrative Messaging makes their job easier as it casts an industry vision and creates direction for the organization — something he/she is directly responsible for.
  • Bringing in an outside agency to work on messaging compliments existing marketing strengths and efforts.

While it may be the CEO that identifies the need for Strategic Narrative Marketing work, the marketing team’s buy-in and effort are integral to the success of the narrative. Also, an agency’s work compliments in-house processes and efforts.  How?  The execution of the narrative is primarily in the hands of in-house marketing teams. The campaigns, advertising, content creation, social media, events messaging, email marketing, lead gen efforts, etc., are the legs that carry the narrative forward for years after a strategic narrative workshop. While Catapult and some other agencies may help with some of those items as well, at the end of the day we are still “outside,” the office, the meetings, the day-to-day work that makes the narrative come together and carry an organization forward. Truthfully, we need each other.

Which are you? The CEO? The Marketer? What is/was your experience working with Catapult and what did your organization’s journey look like bringing us in? We’d love to hear from our clients, past and present! And if you aren’t currently working with Catapult, what’s stopping you? Let’s get in touch.