Build Your Business: How to Share Your New Story

Build Your Business: How to Share Your New Story

A new year tends to track along with new challenges and opportunities in our businesses, doesn’t it? When I speak with organizational leaders I learn about all manner of changes afoot in 2017. Some companies have acquired businesses (or have themselves been acquired). Some are introducing new products and services, or have dramatically enhanced the capabilities of existing products. Others have grown into new locations or means of distribution. Some have a new category of customer. Many others recognize that they need to reposition themselves in the marketplace in order to deal with new competitors.

Any of these big changes requires a new message or “story” for effective marketing. Too often, however, the results of a new message campaign are disappointing. Despite the time and money spent on message development, collateral, training, events, and perhaps a motivational kick-off, the story can fizzle out after a few months. This tends to happen when the organization’s focus is solely or predominantly on external audiences such as prospective customers.

When there is a more balanced focus for the new story—embracing internal audiences such as employees, current customers, partners, and communities—the results are typically much better. After all, the best stories are those designed to be shared person to person. Those who know the organization best have lots of opportunities and plenty of motivation to share the story.

How can you make sure your great new story is not only worth sharing but actually does get shared?

The new story must be believable, especially for the people closest to the business. Whose story is it anyway? In many cases it was dictated by executive leadership. In others it was developed by the advertising or marketing agency. Those messages tend to be discounted by the people who are expected to share them. A better practice is to include knowledge, credible front-line employees in the process of creating the new messages; your potential messengers will be more likely to internalize the story when they see their fingerprints (or those of peers) all over it.

The new story must “feel right” for sharing. In change initiatives, employees in particular are often asked to talk about the business (and themselves) in a new way. This can feel clumsy and risky. You might hear comments such as, “That’s not me,” “Customers are going to ask questions that I can’t answer,” or “I’ll look silly.” But with the right level of information, coaching, and practice most people will develop sufficient comfort in sharing the new message.

The new story must be socialized. People will share the new story if they believe others are doing likewise. We see a similar pattern in political campaigns, where candidates who lead in the polls (or at least in someone’s poll) trumpet those results to demonstrate their popularity and inevitability. Following the principle of social proof, employees and other stakeholders will look to others for cues as to whether adopting the new message is popular and socially “correct.”

  • If you lead a team or organization, you have the additional role of Chief Storyteller. Here are some key leadership behaviors for turning the new story into an organizational habit:
    Continue to make the new story a priority. Talk about it at team meetings. Internal social channels, videos, and face-to-face interactions can also help to reinforce the storytelling behaviors you want to encourage.
  • Model how the message can be shared. Middle managers, in particular, tend to represent the place where change initiatives take root or fail. Do they practice with the new message, and coach their teams how to do it?
  • Show that others are doing it. Socialize the message with success stories and testimonials, to show that the bandwagon is filling up.

Not everyone will embrace and share the new story, of course. But with proper attention to how the message is created, modelled, and socialized, your story can ultimately live across the organization.

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