Engaging customers, employees and investors in a new future.
An investment, mortgage and consumer lending business based in the UK, which had grown organically and through acquisition.
Two challenges, in fact. The firm was about to go through the process of becoming a bank. Core to that process was a customer vote, which needed to be successful if the change in status was to be confirmed. Customer communications in the run up to this vote would be key, and a clear narrative was needed that recognised the tight regulatory constraints of the process and helped customers put their decision in a clear and positive context. The firm’s CEO also recognised the need for a broader narrative, one that would engage his people, the market and investors in the journey he was taking the business on. The firm had been quiet for some time, keeping communication to a minimum, but it was time for a clear, consistent, comprehensive narrative to emerge.
The target audience(s)
Customers, employees and investors: each needing a version of a shared story that was relevant to them. Customers were loyal, and in many cases strong, advocates. Some of this loyalty was based on the firm being small and personal. For them, the firm becoming a bank raised the unattractive prospect of rapid growth. Employees had seen a lot of change and needed to feel that this phase of the firm’s evolution was positive and enabling. Would they believe that the firm could make the transition successfully? Would it still feel like the same company? The firm was looking for new investors too. A positive trajectory was needed to help with this process, a clear sense of where the business was going and why it was going to continue being successful.
Sustainable and impactful narratives are created in three phases:
- In-depth development of the story itself, its component storylines and objectives for each audience group. The weaving together of storylines happens here. It can’t be done at the time of communication.
- Comprehensive action planning to make sure that the day-to-day pressure and priorities of running a business don’t push essential communication activity to the side lines and the right resourcing is available when it’s needed.
- Skilled, confident execution. A narrative is only as good as the way it’s delivered.
Act One: Shaping the story
We took the management team through an extended version of our story shaping process that took the form of workshops and executive 1:1s. We assessed the risks facing our client and the current perceptions of the audience groups we were looking to influence, and crystallised a clear view of where we wanted to take those perceptions. We also explored in some depth the motivations and objectives of the leadership team to craft a clearer sense of purpose and identity for them and the business.
Out of this process came two important narratives:
- an overall company narrative and supporting storylines, addressing all stakeholders and creating a dynamic forward-looking arc for the firm’s people, customers and future investors to engage with;
- a comprehensive customer narrative around the objective of becoming a bank, carefully managing the risks around the conversion communications and setting out a clear and positive journey for all involved.
Act Two: Structuring the story
With the narratives in place, we first workshopped the detailed episode plan for the customer communications with the bank conversion project team, covering all elements of the scope and actively addressing the issues identified. The plan covered work that would be undertaken by the client’s own people and communications that we would support. Using the detailed storylines we’d developed and a clear view of the best channels to use to reach the audience effectively, we mapped out the comms activity, week-by-week, month-by-month, so that the unfolding narrative could be delivered to maximum effect.
With that work done, we identified key milestones for the overall company narrative for the coming 12 months and identified how the narrative and its storylines should work to make the most of those important communication opportunities.
Act Three: Sharing the story
A story plan isn’t a story, no more than a TV drama synopsis is a TV drama. Great execution is what’s needed to win over audiences. Once the episode plans were in place, we took on the project management of bringing the stories to life. Our client had invested in ongoing support from us to bolster their own resources, and we oversaw the monthly action plans, maintaining the shape and purpose of the narratives and crafting important creative components of those plans. From drafting customer communications to shaping the CEO’s town hall presentation, we were there to support the successful delivery of the narratives.
The customer vote was an overwhelming success and the banking licence was granted. The project team told us that there was great value in having our guidance and support in getting the story together, the plan in place, and the materials produced. The language we brought to the communications worked well too, and it was rewarding to hear the team say that “it was so good to have professionals involved.”
The customer communications went very well and resulted in only a small number of straightforward questions, a key success factor for this significant milestone. In fact, there were congratulations from many customers on what they saw as a positive development for the company.
The executive team engaged wholeheartedly in the narrative shaping process, digging deep for their real motivations and aspirations for the business. The final story resonated with the team and set the foundations for their story building over the following year. An early product of the new narrative, the CEO’s presentation at the annual employee conference, was very well received.
We’d picked up on the need for the management team and the business to have more confidence in themselves. “Let’s start believing,” we said. They embraced that message emphatically.