How to Use a Strategic Narrative to Improve PR RelevanceStaying relevant is a lurking concern for many organizations and industries.

Some embrace disruption, while others bury their collective heads in the sand.

Just look at the taxi cab industry—and what Uber has done.

Or, the hospitality industry—and how Airbnb has changed it.

Then, take a look at the PR industry.

How have content and social media marketing changed us?

And what about native advertising and the way ads are presented on Facebook (as articles)?

It’s ironic to me that much of today’s “new” marketing tactics and strategies look and feel a lot like PR.

Another example is how the advertising industry has defined, with great pride, what we PR folks have all been doing for years—garnering “earned media.”

To remain relevant, and even elevate above other marketing practices, PR professionals need to focus on solving a persistent challenge that most organizations face and all CEOs care about—having clear messaging that stands out in the market and helps align a company toward a single, higher cause.

Why Focus on Strategic Narrative

Looking above storytelling and standard inward messaging, we advocate for and have had great success helping clients, from startups to Fortune 500, create an industry-focused strategic narrative.

In a marketing context, a strategic narrative focuses less on what a company does and more on driving industry success.

It ties together megatrends, an organization’s unique view of the market, and an executive vision that aims to benefit the overall industry.

We then can move to define an existing or new category, and/or a new approach that anyone in the industry can follow.

If you want to stand out as a PR professional or agency, you have the opportunity to use the inherent skills we all should possess to offer more strategic value and become indispensable.

That includes our editorial orientation, solid writing skills, and the need to simplify copy.

The Three Components of a Strategic Narrative

Let’s now take a closer look at the components of a strategic narrative:

  • Megatrends: What are the three or four major trends affecting your organization or client? Write them out, along with a sentence or two on how they are causing change and disruption.
  • Industry View: Every organization has unique experience and insight into the industry they serve. What does your company see that is unique? A good way to approach this is looking at perceptions and misperceptions.
  • Industry Vision: What are the opportunities for your industry to advance? What is your vision for where your industry is headed? List three or four things it must do to move forward and deliver more value.

Remember, we are NOT talking about the organization.

The strategic narrative focuses only on the industry!

Putting the Strategic Narrative into Action

With each section outlined above, you’ll have a list and short description of each industry level theme.

That, in turn, provides an outline for a positioning paper, and great leadership themes for PR, content marketing, and social media.

Now, the coolest part of developing a strategic narrative lies ahead by defining a new category or industry approach.

There a couple of ways to think about this.

First, you can aim to redefine a current and existing category.

Or, you can create an entirely new category or industry approach.

Typically, it’s good to modify an existing category through a new approach.

A good example is “enterprise mobile duress” in the security industry.

The mobile duress category already exists, but adding “enterprise” shifted the focus from individual safety to that of large organizations or campuses.

The basic narrative was—“as an industry we do a good job of protecting our physical and digital assets, why not protect an organizations’ most important asset, it’s people?”

As you can imagine, this approach instantly moves us from communicating value focused tactical execution, and up the value chain to organizational vision, leadership, and strategy.

We have a unique opportunity to strategically and purposefully leverage our natural strengths—clearly articulating concepts in short-form—in order to transcend PR above marketing and advertising.

It all starts with embracing and adopting the strategic narrative approach.

Guy Murrel

Guy Murrel is co-founder and principal for Catapult PR, a b-to-b high-tech PR and marketing firm based in Boulder, Colo. Murrel is the author of " A Practical Guide to Strategic Narrative Marketing," a recently published book that provides a step-by-step process to uncover and develop an industry narrative for marketing and company alignment. You can reach him at [email protected].

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