What is the best way to tell a corporate story with different business units? Man scratching his head in front of chalkboard that says "what's your story?"

“What is the best way to tell a corporate story with so many different business units?”

A marketer from SEI Investments Company asked, “What is the best way to tell a corporate story with so many different business units?” It’s one of the Top 100 Questions on content marketing.

If your company has several different business units or service lines, creating one clear, consistent corporate story can seem nearly impossible. It’s not.

Here’s how you can create a corporate story that everyone in your company, including every business unit, can tell.

Start at the company level.

While it may seem daunting to try to create one message that covers the entire company, it’s the best place to begin.

To get you started, bring out your company’s mission, vision, and purpose. These should be broad enough to encompass what each of your business units does. Reviewing them will re-ground you in why your company exists in the first place and help you find the larger story.

Make a Message Map to help tell your corporate story

Next, get the right stakeholders together to co-create a Message Map. A Message Map is a simple, visual tool that helps you tell your corporate story better.

Executives gathered around a whiteboard.
Co-creating a Message Map can help you tell a consistent corporate story.

While it can difficult to find time for your leadership team to spend several hours together, it works. Why? Because when stakeholders create the message together, everyone buys in to the story. With everyone on the same page, your buyers hear a consistent message from your company.

Build your Message Map by seeing your company through your audiences’ eyes, ensuring everything on it is relevant to your buyers.

Color-code your Message Map

After you finish your Message Map, look at it from the perspective of each business unit. Choose a different color for each business unit, and color-code the Message Map.

This exercise enables you to ensure you make the relevant points if you’re speaking to someone who cares about only one of your business units. It also enables you to make sure all of your business units are represented in your overall corporate story.

Make a Message Map for each business unit

Once you have your corporate-level Message Map, it may make sense to create a Message Map for each business unit.

As you do this, the number one goal to keep in mind is to ensure each map clearly ties back to the corporate story. Consistent messages build credibility and trust, so it’s imperative that every Message Map you make tells a consistent story.

When all of the Message Maps are complete, review them together to make sure you’re telling a consistent, compelling story.

Can you start with business-unit stories first?

The short answer is yes, but this approach often takes more time. I’ve worked with several companies where I was brought in to help a specific business unit first. That work almost always expands throughout the company as they realize they need a consistent corporate story across all business units.

It’s easier for some companies to take this route, as they may have a need to get messaging right immediately for a specific part of their business.

For example, I recently worked with the healthcare division of a company that offers solutions in several different industries. I’m now working with the same company in a different division, ensuring the messaging aligns to the larger corporate story.

If you end up starting with a business unit, make sure as you build out other Message Maps that they all tie back to your corporate story.

Need help telling your corporate story? Reach us here.

“What is the best way to tell a corporate story with so many different business units?” is one of marketers’ Top 100 Questions on Content Marketing. Here are the answers.

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