‘We need to tell the project’s story’
Pedro works as a project manager at a real estate development company. For a couple of years now, he has been in charge of a 123-acre development in one of Querétaro fastest growing areas.
The land is divided into several different parcels – each with a different owner – and the plan is to convert the whole thing into a master planned community, with hotels, office buildings, apartment complexes, shopping areas, and schools.
Pedro’s work is quite complicated. He has to deal with a whole bunch of people: the real estate development company’s partners, his team members, investors, construction material suppliers, marketing service providers, branding experts, PR teams, etc.
The problem is that he and his team are not in sync when it comes to communicating about the project, about how to carry it out, and about its relevance, which makes his work more difficult. He is frustrated by the fact that his audiences do not understand the project’s purpose and goals.
Last month, Pedro sought our help. Óscar and I took a trip to his office.
“We’re getting all mixed up when we try to convey the project’s value and importance,” Pedro explained. “There’s just too much information to give out, and we have no idea where to begin when we have a business meeting with people involved in the project.”
As he told me about this, one of the development company’s partners came into the meeting room where we were sitting and summed up their needs:
“The problem is that we’ve never really told the project’s story, and that’s been a mistake,” the partner told us. “We’re failing to talk about the project’s why and assets, which not only confuses clients, but it also makes us look like everyone else. What can your team do for us?”
We told them that they needed a Narrative.
What is a Narrative?
A Narrative is a storytelling tool that makes it possible to convert all of a brand’s value elements – the promises it makes to its clients – into a speech, pitch or story that is easy to tell and remember, reaching the brand’s strategic audiences within minutes.
Earlier this year I spent a week in Querétaro to help Pedro and his team develop and manage their Narrative. First, on Tuesday morning, we met and jotted down the brand’s most important elements:
- How was it born? What is the project purpose?
- What need does it solve?
- What makes it different from its competitors?
- What does the world look like once the brand delivers its products?
It is best if all parties involved participate in developing the narrative’s first draft so that they feel ownership.
The next day, we facilitated Inspira: Storytelling, our business oral storytelling workshop, to help them find and tell stories that bring the Narrative to life.
On Thursday I worked with the Astrolab team to develop the project Narrative and design supporting materials. The next day I met with Pedro, and he approved all texts and documents.
We finished the process with one last workshop on Friday afternoon, where I gave Pedro and his team support material containing very specific instructions on how to communicate the Narrative. Next, we gave each team member the chance to communicate the Narrative for the first time.
Through this activity, the person telling the brand’s story makes it their own and thus understands the tool’s value: they feel like they are explaining the project in a clear and inspiring manner for the first time.
I was told that they would have a cocktail with investors that night and that Pedro would recount the project’s Narrative to them for the first time. I had a few individual coaching sessions with him in the afternoon.
The event began at 8:00 PM. The project’s owner welcomed his guests and then Pedro took the floor in front of 40 people.
“This project was born out of a key belief: that people’s quality of life improves when urban spaces improve. We want to build these spaces. This is the purpose behind all our decisions.”
He then began to recall how the city had changed during the last few years, and told the story about the time when his team identified the need to develop the fifty hectares project. To warp up his presentation, Pedro told the following story, and he got very excited as he did:
“I’m from Monterrey, a city that has witnessed impressive growth in the last couple of years. And yet, I have never seen anything like the project we’re working on here.
They day I arrived in Querétaro, I put on my running shoes and I went out to explore the land we were going to develop. After a while, though, I realized I had gotten lost. It took me a few minutes to find my way back.
I was surprised by the sheer size of the whole thing. I started thinking about it, and I realized that we had a unique opportunity: if we did our work well, this project would become an urbanization model not only for the city for and Mexico.
If we are professional, if we maintain the project’s vision and work together as a team, I am sure the project will attract spectators from all over the world and perhaps others might follow in our footsteps.
People’s quality of life improves when better urban spaces are available to them, and that is what we want to make possible here with your help.”
After Pedro’s speech and during the event that was held in the windy nighttime Querétaro outdoors, many of Pedro’s team members came up to me to tell me they felt much more prepared to talk about the project with anyone.
Building a Narrative
Simon Sinek rose to fame with this TEDx Talk How great leaders inspire action. In that speech, Sinek speaks about a concept he calls the Golden Circle, a communication structure that, he argues, has its roots in the human brain.
The Golden Circle is a good starting point for your Narrative, but it falls short. We think that you could dig deeper while talking about your WHY and WHAT.
Think about this: if you do a double click on both, what else do you get?
Let’s start with WHY. Instead of just talking about your purpose, you need to speak about the problem that you solve, and the vision your company is trying to achieve. You could also share stories about the different ah-ha moments that align to these WHY topics.
Now, remember that creating this Narrative is worthless instead you get EVERYONE on your team to incorporate the Narrative elements’ to their daily communication efforts and decision making.