People hate change. For both physiological and cultural reasons, we are averse to it. Multiply that singular aversion to change by 5,000 people or so, and we begin to see why it’s difficult to alter the course of the enterprise business. As a matter of fact, sometimes the thought of what it would take to get key stakeholders to think differently is so exhausting that it’s easy to see why many ideas never get off the ground.
Brand storytelling requires change, and you may be the one responsible for selling it throughout your company. Let me warn you—it won’t be easy. You’ll be asking many marketing leaders to discard what they had held true for years and, perhaps, had personally built within their organizations.
That’s a lot of baggage to throw off the cliff.
I’ve been on both sides of the table when it comes to organizational change—both as the change agent and the person needing to adapt. Based on this experience, here’s an approach that I’ve found makes the “sell” much easier.
Your primary stakeholder is the one who’s holding the purse strings for the content marketing initiative, but you’ll have many other stakeholders who will be instrumental to successful transformation. Certainly the CMO is one, but stakeholders from marketing operations, social media, brand, corporate communications, e-commerce (if applicable), product marketing, and IT teams are equally crucial to your success.
Guaranteed, if you leave one out, that person will be the one who derails the train.
Schedule face-to-face meetings with each of your stakeholders. But, getting in front of them doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll make an impression, especially if they haven’t met you previously. Ben Parr, the author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, recommends seven triggers to stand people at attention.
One key trigger is acknowledgment. It might not seem like the Director of Marketing Automation is critical to brand storytelling, but she is. Acknowledge this, and make her part of the team from the get-go.
Forget about the “what” and “how” for now. When you are selling the big idea, make sure you communicate the “why.”
The why of brand storytelling is clear. Interrupt advertising is dying. According to Doubleclick, display advertising click-through rates are 0.06 percent, less than one click per thousand impressions, and more than 75 percent of people skip TV ads. Meanwhile, people can’t get enough quality, original content. Netflix just reported that it has more than 62 million subscribers who are spending 10 billion hours per month watching ad-free programming. Without the shift to content marketing, marketers are throwing their dollars out the window and losing opportunities to create authentic, lasting relationships with their audiences.
In his book Tribal Leadership, David Logan indicates that 49 percent of workplace tribes are in what he refers to as Stage Three, marked by people who want to outwork and outthink their competitors on an individual basis. They are tribal members who not only want to win but need to be the best and brightest. Oftentimes, these are the people who get things done, but they are also the people who can rub others the wrong way.
To bring about organizational change and consensus, you need to resist the temptation to be a lone wolf. Be a facilitator and give your stakeholders just that—a stake in the project. Form a new, powerful tribe that is passionate about transforming the way you connect with audiences and the value you will potentially provide to the market and society.
The best way to sell an idea throughout the enterprise is to create a success story. Enterprise-wide initiatives take years. Marketers don’t have years to get this right. So start small. Find a division or group within the company that is ripe for brand storytelling. This will be a team that has the skills and desire to break the mold or is trying to reach an audience that is craving the stories that you are in a unique position to provide.
HP’s TechBeacon site is a prime example. The company created a separate digital hub for dev and tech professionals seeking guidance on real business challenges. Others within the organization can now learn from this use case.
How many times have we worked on a project, seen a successful launch, and then that’s the last we’ve heard of it? Your first launch is your business case for future growth within the organization. Make sure that you have the infrastructure in place to communicate ongoing results to your stakeholders—both positive and negative. Don’t be a stranger. You’ve created relationships with people from this group. Set up regular meetings to keep them informed, and don’t be afraid to continue seeking input.
Initiating change within an organization is difficult, but certainly not impossible. With initiatives like enterprise storytelling, it is well worth the risk. By making the necessary investment to build consensus, your job gets a lot easier.
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