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There is much more to a corporate narrative than just writing the copy

By Martin Palin

AI-generated image: Corporate narrative

There are two parts to developing a corporate narrative. The first is to write the copy describing your company in the form of its ‘story’. The second is to bring that story to life and to show how that story plays out for the people that your company claims to help.

The first part is easy and the second part is hard.

The first part is so easy you could get a robot to do it. In fact, most health-related corporate narratives that appear on company websites give you exactly that impression. There’s usually a dose of “patient-centricity” mixed in with some references to “life-saving innovation” that “leaves no one behind” and drives “healthcare for all”. No doubt you’ll be a “responsible corporate citizen, dedicated to sustainability, ethical business practices and social responsibility” (Thanks Genie, total time two minutes).


The second part is hard, takes effort and is time consuming.

But it’s the second part that matters. It’s only when you bring your corporate narrative to life via personal stories and lived experiences that you start to distinguish yourself from all the other health-related companies that make identical claims. You have to imagine your customers, stakeholders, patients and healthcare professionals asking this question after reading your narrative:

“Where is the evidence and demonstration of this patient centricity and innovation, of which you make so much?”

If you’re going to convince people of your authenticity, then you’ve got some work to do. You will need , at the very least, to:

  1. Source baseline measures about what your stakeholders and customers currently think of you (or at least some historical metrics about how your key social media assets, like LinkedIn and your website have been performing)

  2. Find people (patients, patient group representatives, employees) who are prepared to tell (publicly) a unique, personal and compelling story that helps articulate some aspect of your narrative

  3. Brief them on the purpose, reach and use of the content. Gather and confirm their consent to the process

  4. Interview, record and/or film them in a context and location that makes them feel comfortable and able to express themselves freely

  5. Edit that material into a format and style that engages your target audience and reflects both your values and your corporate look and feel

  6. Get approval for that material from all internal and external parties

  7. Be prepared to NOT use content that ends up not lining up to your original aspirations for it

  8. Promote the material that does get used in an appropriate way using search engine optimisation, internal 'rallying' or paid promotions

  9. Track the performance of that content across various platforms, developing insights (based on metrics and feedback) that help you make future decisions about what kind of content works best and where

  10. Check progress against the original aims and metrics

  11. And then just keep doing this on repeat for a really long time

The percentage break down of the work and time invested in the original drafting of the copy and the longer term illustration of the narrative should be around 2% to 98%. Because the first part is easy.

The people I have in mind when providing this guidance are those who wave around “almost final” corporate narratives that have been doing the rounds for six months and are up to their 25th draft. Don’t waste your time. Save your energy for the real work that will come down the track.

If your business is in oncology, I want to hear echoes of your corporate narrative from people who affected by cancer. If you are in cardiovascular health I need to hear from people with heart disease, or cardiologists or representatives from patient groups in heart health. If you’re telling me about your corporate culture and convincing me to work there, I need to hear from your employees, freely telling their stories in a way that aligns with your narrative.

The real work comes in (1) telling a story about your company through the lived experiences of real people who benefit from what you do and (2) doing the diligent follow up to assess what impact the telling of that story might have had.

I reckon leave the “me too” copy writing to the robots.


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