Using a strategic narrative – why it works and how to do it

Do you have a strategic narrative in your organisation?

Jargon buster: A strategic narrative is where you’ve come from and where you’re going, in other words the story of your company.

Today I have a guest post for you by Emma Bridger of People Lab, ahead of book launch and event you’re invited to in London next week.

Here’s Emma @miss_commslab

Using a strategic narrative – why it works and how to do it

Providing a compelling purpose at work, or strategic narrative, can create meaning for employees, which contributes towards employee engagement.

Developing and communicating, a clear, compelling story about where your organisation is going and why, is a great way for internal communicators to positively impact employee engagement.

In fact, in 2009, David MacLeod and Nita Clarke cited strategic narrative as one of the key enablers of Employee Engagement in their report to government. (See the end of this article for more info – Rachel).

Why does a compelling strategic narrative positively impact engagement?

Here’s the science bit:

Feeling overloaded
We are bombarded with thousands of pieces of data every second of every day. If we were to notice everything going on we would go mad! Luckily we have an in-built ‘spam filter’ called the reticular activating system (RAS) which shuts out most of the noise. This all happens at a subconscious level, but what is great about the RAS is that we can programme it.

If we have clear goals the RAS will notice data that is useful to achieving that goal. For example have you ever decided to buy a new car, only to see that car everywhere!!

This is the RAS at work and this explains why creating a clear strategic narrative is so important, quite simply if we know where we are going we are more likely to pay attention to information that will help us to get there

Having a clear story
Having a clear story about where the organisation is headed also enables our brains to predict, as well as creating more certainty. Our brains love certainty, it keeps us safe and also conserves energy (the brain uses about 30% of our calorie intake). Uncertainty can cause anxiety and distraction, so clearly having a compelling strategic narrative will help to avoid this. .

Feeling valued
And finally, a well communicated strategic narrative can also make us feel valued: it helps us to understand that our work matters and makes a difference. Feeling valued puts our brains into a positive mind-set which is good news for employee engagement.

How do I make my story compelling?

For a story to be compelling it needs to be:

  • meaningful to those hearing it
  • about something people care about
  • exciting, dramatic and inspiring
  • believable (no matter how audacious it is!)

You also need to think about the role your leaders will play (both in terms of creation and communication) and what you need to do to keep the story alive. To help you with this, we’ve created a handy guide to developing your Strategic Narrative, which you can download here.

When thinking about communicating your strategic narrative it is well worth considering using a ‘big picture’ approach. Visual communications are a great way to develop understanding of otherwise complex content.

Your invitation to Emma’s book launch and event

If you’d like to hear more about this approach, please come along to ‘An Evening of Engagement’on Wednesday 3 October (5.30pm to 8pm), at wallacespace Covent Garden, London, where Craig Smith, Director of BigPicture Learning, will be sharing a case study of a large-scale change programme with EDF Energy. He’ll explain how ‘big pictures’ can help you tell your organisation’s story, create a strategic narrative and positively impact engagement.

An Evening of Engagement is an event to celebrate the launch of the second edition of my bestselling book Employee Engagement: A Practical Introduction (Kogan Page).

The event will feature six experts talking about contemporary employee engagement topics, and you’ll have the chance to ask questions on all things engagement. We’ll also be enjoying an informal drinks reception – giving you a great opportunity to network with others. You’ll also get a signed copy of my book included in the ticket price.

I’m delighted to offer friends and followers of All Things IC 20% off the tickets price, simply enter the code FRIENDOFPEOPLELAB when you buy your ticket.

Find out more and book your ticket/s.

I really hope you can join us!


Post author: Emma Bridger

Thank you Emma.

Learn more about employee engagement via All Things IC

Do you want to learn more about employee engagement? I’ve published numerous articles on my blog over the past nine years.

Here’s a selection:

The four drivers Emma mentioned are:

  1. Strategic narrative: Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going
  2. Engaging managers: Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch them
  3. Employee voice: Employee voice throughout the organisation, reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally. Employees seen as central to the solution
  4. Integrity: Organisational integrity – values on the wall are reflected in day-to-day behaviours. There is no ‘say – do’ gap.

Learn more about internal communication

My 2019 monthly Masterclass dates will be live on the website before the end of the year.

Bookings are now open for 1-2-1 VIP Days and team days for January 2019 onwards, so if you’re thinking of investing in your personal development, do get in touch and let me know how I can help.

Thank you to the professional communicators and HR pros who came to my Internal Communication Masterclass today (pictured below).

My Masterclasses all take place face-to-face in London, UK. CIPR and IoIC members can save 20% and earn CPD points/hours.

Choose from:

Thank you for stopping by,


First published on the All Things IC blog 27 September 2018.


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