Storytelling is, as they say, nothing new under the sun, and humans have been practicing this art for thousands and thousands of years. However, getting across a company's story can still be a struggle and the topic was continuously brought to the forefront of the conversation when asking the respondents to Comprend's Web Management Survey 2020 about their biggest communication challenges. Why is corporate storytelling so important, how can you do it well, and what does its future look like?
Studies by the AMO Network* show that 35.3% of a company's market capitalisation is derived from its corporate reputation. With numbers that high, it is essential to make sure your reputation is a good one.
Corporate storytelling is all about a company demonstrating a positive direction while still making sure its personality and identity shine through. More importantly, it concerns the ability to communicate this direction to stakeholders in a way that creates mutual understanding.
"Companies that can’t communicate what they are doing, and why, will have a hard time to stay relevant in the future"
- Staffan Lindgren, CEO Comprend.
All companies are obligated to publish regulatory material as a top priority, but corporate storytelling should strive to cover a different angle. It’s a question of what you are doing and, furthermore, how you distinguish yourself from the competition. The priority order is as follows:
Based on the three levels mentioned above, being compliant and meeting stakeholder needs tend to generate a lot of published content. All this content should, of course, be steeped in the company story, but some stories and news will rhyme particularly well with it. Highlighting these content pieces is an efficient way to get your message across, but to succeed you'll also need to choose what not to publish. High frequency updates do not automatically make you a great storyteller. Be selective (outside of compliance, of course) and opt to publish high quality content that tells the right story: the company's story, in an organic way, and with high impact.
Getting the company story to show through your content can be tricky. To do this well, you must start with an understanding that all company touch points are an opportunity to let your story shine. Of course, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Supplier contracts are not the same as the homepage of a website, but thinking about how different interactions will benefit from the way the company story is shown is a great start to creating a trustworthy and authentic story.
Revisiting published content is another good way to stay on top of the situation and own your message. Companies change, and their story will most likely do as well. Researching, prototyping, testing, and publishing are all part of the design thinking toolbox and have their benefits when applied to communication. It's all about adapting to your audience and remembering that reaching everyone is not as fruitful as reaching the right people.
Pinpointing the most important touch points for the company's story is key when deciding where to put your efforts. Start by figuring out your most important target groups and where they land on your corporate site. These 10-20 pages are the main touching points, where the company story should be allowed to shine the brightest - they offer a great opportunity for any company and should therefore receive the most love, care, and attention. Finding these pages, tailoring their messaging, design, and imagery, and giving them specific goals tied to your business goals is called ‘the core model’.
Making sure that your message is understood in the intended way is key to establishing trust between the company and its stakeholders. Large companies have large audiences, and a large audience includes many backgrounds, cultures, and values. This creates the conditions for misunderstandings. A corporate story perfectly summed up as a message takes time to create, so investing in testing the message's impact should be included in the creation scope. Be it through surveys or analytics, it's time well spent, as these misunderstandings can be costly.
“Instead of mainly focusing on the message you want to communicate, spend some time and research to understand the different types of stakeholders and their values, knowledge and attitudes. Understanding their needs will help you design messages that the recipient perceives, understands and accepts. It's not about what you say - but what they hear.”
- Tove Jarl, CEO Axiom Insight
A common pitfall is to put time, energy, and money into developing and building a website and then failing to keep the momentum going. Even if information overload is to be avoided, you should consistently ensure that the material telling your story is up to date.
What is important to your stakeholders? At what times? Where will they look for information? Both on stormy days and at times when your company shines your stakeholders will go to the first-hand source – to you. When a crisis occurs, for example, your website must ensure that you are trustworthy and communicate how you are handling the situation.
Some companies prefer to make updates in bulk, once a year. This often happens when these changes are connected to the annual report. However, keep in mind that the actual corporate story unfolds continuously and should therefore get consistent care. Your company does not look the same as it did three years ago, so why should your website?
Combining the results of our Web Management survey with insights from Staffan Lindgren, we can get an outlook for the future: storytelling is prioritised and is highly incorporated. We are not yet where we could be, but we will get there in the end!
*of which Comprend's sister agency, Halvarsson & Hallvarson, is a part of.