Friday, 11 June 2010

Business Stories #3: Make Believe, the storytelling agency

My last company profile this week is Make Believe, the agency that's evangelising the power of stories to help businesses find their way through difficult times.

Storytelling might be the oldest and most effective form of communication, but even so it might seem an unexpected prescription for organisations suffering tough times in 2010. Make Believe, a London-based agency with a global client base is evangelising that the principles of storytelling can be used to help organisations manage change and to get leaders back on track.

Today so much more is expected of leaders. Whether you’re CEO of BP or the Prime Minister, leaders know that success is about being a good communicator, and for that you need to be a good storyteller. Make Believe work with multinational corporations like Microsoft, Coors and Unilever helping bring their story alive.

I met with Make Believe senior partner Sally Osman who recalled a story of how the beam from a lighthouse helps a ship steer its course through a violent storm. She believes having a powerful story at the heart of a business can become your guiding light ‘in good times, rough times and changing times’.

Sally explained that most clients approach Make Believe because they’re ‘stuck’ - they acknowledge they need a different approach to solve a business challenge. The agency applies a seven-step process to get under the skin of a client’s business to challenge and redefine a company’s narrative. “So many companies are going at 90 miles per hour, they forget where they’ve come from or where they’re going” says Sally.

Great stories can make difficult things easier to grasp; they can make an idea or strategy visually strong, leaving it clear and memorable. Apply these questions to help your business use storytelling to regain focus and direction:

  1. Have your staff forgotten what it is the company stands for? Retelling your story with their input can help redefine your organisational culture and get everyone united with a common purpose.
  2. Do your clients, and the marketplace at large, ‘get’ what you do or are you telling a story that’s out of date? Many businesses tell the story of what they used to be, rather what they really are, and that disconnect can dent their market potential.
  3. Are you struggling with defining and communicating your strategy and business plan? Try visualising it with a story: people may not remember a business plan, but great stories are unforgettable.

So if your business has lost its way, try retelling your story, whether internally to get the organisation back on-track, or externally to get clients to understand how you’ve changed. In a competitive and ever-changing marketplace, it might be a case of he who has the best story, wins.

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