Building a strong strategic narrative requires framing an opportunity that will benefit all stakeholders, not just your company.
Don’t miss this step if you are currently building a new strategic narrative.
Using a strategic narrative to launch a project or grow your business does something that a single and isolated story alone can not.
You will move people from the audience to the position of participants.
I see a strategic narrative as a system of four main stories: the origin story, the opportunity story, the perspective story, and the product story.
Resist the urge to talk about your product first.
In this system, all stories are important, but I’ve noticed that most of us have to skip the opportunity story and jump straight to the product story.
It’s as if we feel the urgency to focus on the solution that we have to offer. So whether you have a product, a service, a process, or just an idea under development, we are talking here about the packaged thing you want to sell ultimately.
I understand; we want to describe our fantastic offers because it is reassuring to hang on to something tangible. So, we jump quickly to what it is. We demo our product. We want to show it off. Then, we rush to our solution, listing all of its features and benefits.
To build a powerful strategic narrative, don’t skip the opportunity story.
First, show what success looks like.
First, to make the shift from audience to participants, you need to address two questions:
- What is the view of the future that is motivating you and us (your community) to act today and change our narrative?
- What action are you asking us to take along with you and your team (if you have one) besides buying your product?
The answer to these questions should be about the promise of reaching success, a destination that looks like a better spot than where we are today.
You could think about it as where are you taking your clients. It should be something worth fighting for. Some of my peers like to call it the “promised land”.
In a previous post, I used the example of the three-point seat belt that Volvo invented and introduced to the market in 1959. The opportunity story for Volvo was, and still is: “Together, we can save millions of lives.” Another aspect of the opportunity was for the firm to position its brand as the leader in safety.
We can also tell this opportunity story with this photo.
Photo credit: https://beltedsurvivors.nz/
Not your typical image of success, yet it is what some would call a miracle. Despite some injuries, car crash survivor James McDonald is still alive.
We’ve realized the opportunity.
Now, there are two more important criteria to consider.
What kind of future?
When thinking about the future that your strategic narrative promotes, should it be about threat or hope? Or both?
- A future based on a threat is about avoiding a significant risk. It activates a cognitive bias called loss aversion, or in short, the fear of losing something we deem necessary.
- A future based on hope is about gaining something positive. It should be about the opportunity that excites you, and that should excite us too.
These options will have you tell different stories.
Create a sense of belonging.
Here is a tip to help you start writing your opportunity story.
Start with: “Together, we will….”
The word “together” signals a connection. A shared opportunity creates a sense of belonging to the same community. When the people you want to influence feel like they are part of the same group, they are more inclined to take action.
What is your opportunity story?
Take a moment to reflect on the opportunity of your strategic narrative.
Be true to yourself. Is your view of the future driven by a sense of threat or an opportunity? Does the future that you envision fill you with fear or excitement and hope?
You can watch my video about the concept of narrative as a system and the four-story model here.