Why is a corporate narrative important? The best organisations have a strong, authentic and compelling story to tell. Do you?
by David Holdstock
The best communicators are also the best storytellers. In fact, some organisations prefer a ‘chief storyteller’ to a chief executive. And yet, far too many councils have still not developed a compelling story or narrative for their own organisation. The impact that stories can have when we need to talk about issues that affect our communities, like how we’re spending their money or developing their local area, can be huge and help to demonstrate how councils are changing lives, and places for the better.
A strong corporate narrative helps to tell your residents what you stand for – it underpins your brand, which, by the way, is not a logo. It helps to set out your ambitions and the part they can play in that.
A compelling narrative can also help you better structure your messages so that people are clearer about what your council is doing for them, and why you may not be able to deliver everything they might want. With the latest national residents’ satisfaction survey showing that only 58 per cent of residents feel informed by their council, there is work for us all to do to improve our relationship with our residents at a time when there is clearly a gap between citizens and governments and institutions.
A corporate narrative doesn’t have to be long or complex. In fact, throwing the kitchen sink at it can often lead to confusion and the charge that a council is just saying things it can never deliver. It simply needs to be a great story, told well. The key to a good corporate narrative is that is has to be authentic. Words alone are not enough. There are many examples both in the public sector and from the business world where actions have not matched words. People need to feel part of the story, believe it and feel that it’s honest.
When developing a corporate narrative it’s important to involve your own staff, councillors and key stakeholders – with residents at the heart of it. Creating it doesn’t need to be a complicated task either. A series of short focus groups can provide you with everything you need – and the things you don’t. These will give you a fantastic insight into what is in people’s minds already and what needs to be different.
To help develop or refresh your own corporate narrative, we’ve developed a new toolkit which includes lots of help and advice. From tips on who to involve and how to start writing, to advice on launching your story and evaluating its success, our guide provides practical support on how to develop an authentic story for your council. The toolkit also contains case studies from councils who have successfully developed or evolved their own organisational stories, explaining how they did it, what they learnt and their advice for people starting out or looking to re-write their story.
A corporate narrative can be a really powerful tool and the real success stories have helped to bring communities and partners together, improve resident satisfaction and enhance the reputation of both an organisation and the place.
David Holdstock is Director of Communications at the Local Government Association
image via Ed Uthman