CHICAGO — Chief Executive Officers are not listening to their Chief Marketing Officers.

And as a result, many organizations are struggling to develop effective narratives for their marketing campaigns.

The solution? Get back to basics. Step off the marketing treadmill and start with a good narrative.

Losing Your Narrative

At one of yesterday morning’s opening workshops at CMSWire's inaugural DX Summit, Deb Lavoy, CEO and founder of Narrative Builders, noted that for many organizations, the message they're trying to communicate to customers is getting lost.

While marketing and communications professionals in organizations all over the world cite good storytelling as a key element of marketing success, many organizations are finding it difficult to “build a good story.”

The repercussions on an organizations’ efforts to sell themselves to their customers is clear, but it also has implications inside the organization. Without a narrative that reflects what your organization does, you'll struggle to align your teams around a common objective, attract and inspire investors, and ultimately, provide a unified business strategy.

5 Narrative Components

Deb Lavoy
Yesterday morning’s session, though, was not about pointing out the holes in marketing strategies, but about filling them in by developing narratives around five key components.

Lavoy describes those five components as follows:

  1. Core: How well formed and organized is your narrative?
  2. Presentation: How well are you presenting that narrative to the world?
  3. Clarity: Do people get it?
  4. Resonance: Does it stir their hearts and minds?
  5. Shareability: If they understand the narrative, will they be able to share it?

Lavoy noted many organizations are having problems with one — or several — of these points.

“You wouldn’t believe how many company websites I look at where I have no idea what that company does,” she said.

Their message is not effective, she added, because their assessment of their existing narrative has not been rigorous enough and the message that is being transmitted to the customers is not clear.

She also points out that narrative development is not a function of the marketing department alone. The development of an effective marketing narrative is the responsibility of the entire organization.

Narrative is not just a mission statement, nor a sales statement — it’s telling your story to the world. If you lock this in the marketing department, the narrative that emerges will not represent the entire organization.

By testing their existing narrative against the five components, organizations will begin to develop narratives that will “set their market on fire.” Organizations can test their narratives by asking the following questions:

1. Core

  • Do you know what elements you want to include in your narrative?
  • Have you written down what those elements anywhere?
  • Have all the stakeholders agreed on them?
  • Are the elements included really the elements you need?

2. Presentation

 Slick presentations that look good will not be much use unless they fulfill a number of criteria:

  • How clearly are you presenting your narrative?
  • Does your website present the narrative, or the points that you want to make?
  • What other supports are there to flesh out the narrative (blogs, wikis, ads, articles)?
  • Do you have research or analytics that backs up your thinking?

3. Clarity

After developing the second component, assess whether it is getting the message across or not:

  • Are people getting the message and how long does it take for them to get it?
  • What other information or questions are they likely to ask and how do you meet those needs?

4. Resonance

However, getting it is not enough. You need to be able to assess impact, which you can do by answering the following questions:

  • Does it have an emotional and intellectual impact on people?
  • Does it make them want the product?
  • Will they remember it?
  • Does it make people want to go further?

5. Shareablity

Will customers be able to explain to others what your organization sells or offers?

  • Is there other ways of sharing information about the products or services?
  • Are you tracking these different elements?

"There are two things you want in every digital reaction: First, get people interested. Second, set up the next interaction, whether that is clicking on or signing up,” she said.

Lavoy points out that organizations face challenges carrying out this kind of analysis because they are often deeply involved in the project before they realize they need to do this.

This is when they need to stand back and take a critical look at their narrative, using a framework like Lavoy outlined yesterday morning.