eTip #22

Uncovering an Organization’s True Story

Organizations wanting to improve the clarity of their story would benefit from developing a strong corporate branding program. In this month’s eTip we interviewed corporate branding guru Mary Lynn Coyle about how to uncover an organization’s true story.

BMC: How long have you been helping organizations uncover their true story?

Coyle: Early in my corporate communications career, I felt we were often guessing at what the key messages should be for a company. That bothered me because I felt communications professionals could be doing a better job of getting it right. As branding processes evolved and matured, we had many more strategic and proven tools to use to develop key messages. I’ve had my own consulting practice for nine years and have helped companies large and small develop their true story. I don’t believe companies can get the most from their communications and marketing efforts until they undertake a strategic review of who they are, what they do and why people should put their faith and trust in this organization.

BMC: Why is it important to uncover an organization’s true story?

Coyle: There is little difference between products and services today. Corporate branding decisions can help break an organization out of the clutter by using communications techniques to better manage the perceptions being developed about that organization. Every action creates a perception of the company and perception is always reality. So, organizations should do everything they can to ensure constituents are hearing their true story.

BMC: How do you create a true story?

Coyle: You need to undertake a strategic and comprehensive corporate branding process. Should the organization be a Branded House, a House of Brands or a mix of both? What is different about this organization? What position in the marketplace can this organization own because of that differentiation? What are the foundational attributes of this organization that will never change? What is the organization’s brand promise? Only after these are answered should you develop your messaging, a comprehensive visual identity program and marketing and communications strategies, plans and tactics.

BMC: Who should be involved internally in developing the true story?

Coyle: It is critical the CEO and executive team own the development effort and then lead the way in living the strategic decisions they make. It is also important to ask employees their perceptions. Often, executives are surprised by how different employee perceptions are from their own. You need to understand competitors’ claims about their own differentiation and positioning. You need to ask customers what they know and think about the organization and what they think distinguishes you from others. And, it is critical customers see your proposed branding decisions as both believable and achievable.

BMC: Last words of wisdom in regard to developing an organization’s true story

Coyle: I like to re-enforce two success strategies. First, living your true story isn’t just a communications or marketing issue. Corporate branding decisions must guide everyone in the organization every day. Second, you must eliminate operational impediments to execute your brand strategies fully. Internal task forces can help uncover those operational impediments and create the action steps to fix them, such as boosting talent resources, improving customer service or building new project delivery processes. If you follow these strategies you have a much better chance of sustaining your true story and using it to make marketplace gains.


Mary Lynn Coyle is a strategic corporate branding and communications consultant based in Dallas, She has directed communications strategies and projects in more than 20 countries and her programs have won almost 50 international, national and local communications awards.


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