Good storytelling has two components: messaging – leading to the elevator pitch for external and to general principles for external communication – and topic management.
Das Messaging
The heart of every story is the so-called elevator pitch. What exactly is this?

Assume you are at a congress or at an event. After a long day full of interesting presentations and conversations you are waiting for the elevator to go to your room. Right at the elevator door, you are running into – at this point you can imagine whomever you want – a beautiful young colleague or an attractive young man and you are thinking: Could this work?

Now you have time to spark the interest of the other one – but only as much time as the elevator needs to reach your floor. Imagine a high building, this leaves you with around one and a half minutes. What happens in the elevator during this time is the elevator pitch.

What you do is to make yourself appear interesting in a very short time. The goal is to make your counterpart say “wow, this sounds interesting, I want to learn more; let`s meet at the bar.”

The elevator pitch is designed to make people curious for more. It tells a company`s story in 90 seconds. Every employee should be able to do such an elevator pitch in their own words.

But why do you need it at all? Isn`t it enough if you know how your company works? It is not. Especially in change periods, you depend on your employees working and changing with you.

If you think everyone in your company already knows what is going on, try a little experiment: Ask five team members or executives into your office individually and have them introduce the company in one and a half minutes: goals, vision, market position. You will probably be introduced to fice different companies that do not have much in common, and you will realize that it is time to create an elevator pitch. This is what will happen in nine out of ten medium-sized companies. See for yourself.

The core of an elevator pitch consists of the corporate vision and the mission statement. The former tells which technological, economical, or social trends you see that define your business. The mission statement says what your contribution is to making these trends succeed.

Microsoft is a perfect example:

Its corporate vision was defined by Bill Gates as early as the 1970s: “One day, there will be a PC on every desk and in every home …”. And the mission statement completed the sentence: “… with software from Microsoft!”

This leads us to the unique selling proposition (USP). It answers two questions: What makes us different from our competitors? Which hard facts make us unique?

With products and services becoming more and more interchangeable, defining a USP is difficult. If you take an honest look at your competitors you will probably find that there is more than one who could provide a certain product or service just as good as you.

No, it is not easy: because your profile consists of numerous and very different elements. To find this unique combination, we usually conduct a SWOT analysis in the market with our client.

Imagine a bar. The “raw materials” are roughly the same in every bar – but you are the barkeeper. The drinks you create from the usual ingredients can be highly unique.

Take us, vibrio, as an example; our USP is:

  • There are around 10,000 communication and PR agencies in Germany.
  • Only around 1,000 of these specialize in products and technologies that need to be explained.
  • Of these, only around 100 understand integrated marketing that comprises consulting, PR, advertisement, dialogue marketing, and social media marketing.
  • Only around 10 of these are owner-managed.
  • And it is very likely that there is only one that serves all large German-speaking countries, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

If you take this combination, vibrio is truly unique. The USP must be defined through deduction; because in fact, there are many players with the same portfolio as ours. The may be not as good but…;)

On a side note, you know now how storytelling works: with pictures and stories.
This USP is now complemented by an emotional selling proposition (ESP) which describes the “character” of a company: what drives it? What does its specific culture look like? The ESP says what makes us different from our competitors, which factors make us unique.

It is the foundation for our vision. Brands are not defined through mission statements, objective USPs, or value propositions; soft and “emotional” factors are the most important ones here. This is especially true for brand internalization by employees, not only following M&A or change management situations.

Principles are best articulated in pictures – animals, brands, professions, and so on. Take a publisher as an example for whom we created the barkeeper already mentioned. It was an expert publisher that reacted to reader demands in compiling its topic portfolio, and wanted to be a “Lifetime Companion” first and foremost, an advisor in all situations – just like a typical barkeeper who is always willing to listen and to offer advice.

By the way, here is our own set of principles, in a picture (our “Leitbild”):
vibrio Leitbild
The last element in our messaging is the compilation of target-group specific value propositions. This brings us very close to our product portfolio, the features, and their use for different audiences. Defining these audiences is a mixture of sector typology, decision-making function, and company typology.
While the messaging formulates the positioning of company and brand topic management makes specific statements on products, the market, and other topics. The topic management is created with the client in a workshop and captured with the messaging in a wording handbook.

In a content analysis, the current issues of the core target groups are examined: What do target groups talk about in social or traditional expert media? To which of these topics can the company contribute? Where can we join the discussion? Only someone who takes part will be recognized. This is classic issue management, or, if you will, the list of topics for a corporate blog if you have one. What we do is to compare our target groups’ agendas with our client’s areas of interest and expertise.

Together, messaging and issue management build the wording which is the foundation for successful storytelling. They define our topics for traditional PR, and for social media marketing just as well. What is more, they deliver the core terms by which the company wants to be found through search engines. This is why a wording handbook is at the same time an instrument in the SEO strategy.

We will capture the wording in such a handbook; it will be updated once a year in a workshop. Its content directly goes into the campaign and content planning for PR an social media marketing.

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