One small step in communications, one bold step for UK business

This week we’re launching a new corporate communications proposition designed to help firms navigate and capitalise on change. Whilst the principles can be applied to businesses of any size, it is particularly aimed at businesses between £50-500million turnover. Ambitious, mid-sized businesses that are embarking on the next stage of growth against a backdrop of significant corporate and market change. At the smaller end they are likely to be working towards a liquidity event and for the more established they could be looking to refresh or reinvent themselves to break into new markets and sustain growth.

In October NatWest revealed data that shows that UK mid-market firms will outperform GDP growth and growing by between 5-10%. The strongest levels of growth are expected at the larger end of the market, among firms with £50-250million. The UK is home to a flourishing of array home-grown businesses. The Times Top Track 250 shines a spotlight on the most successful, profitable ones. Many are backed by private equity investment, some international, a significant proportion are family businesses whose values, and common focus serve their customers and their reputation well.

This is a dynamic market but one that has traditionally been more cautious in spending on brand and marketing. For those businesses looking for investment to sustain growth and realise strategic ambitions, communication is key. And at the core of the communications strategy there needs to be a narrative that resonates far beyond the boardroom. To deliver real growth, investment and a positive reputation it needs to be on the lips of customers, employees, partners, media, industry and online influencers.

But the biggest businesses in the FTSE 100 are largely international conglomerates in mining, energy and services. Not all of them represent the best of British. So how do our thriving mid-market businesses reach the big league? Investment, systems, technology and talent all come into it, but vision and communications play a vital part. As a brilliant mentor once told me, “occasionally you have to fake it to make it.” To be clear, she wasn’t suggesting I lie about my experience or skill set, but she was suggesting I boldly tell my story, confidently give my perspective and hustle for the prize like the best of them.

To be bold story-tellers and to achieve a step change in their fortunes, mid-market businesses need to be crystal clear on why they exist, why they matter, who benefits from their work and where they are going next. Answering these questions will articulate the brand promise and explain their vision and founding principles to a wider audience than the small group of insiders who helped them flourish since inception. Keeping the narrative relevant is where creativity and boldness comes in. Businesses should campaign with purpose like Iceland and its palm oil Christmas ad campaign, demonstrate pioneering, problem solving spirit like Dyson, or a laser focus on people and service like John Lewis. Whatever your schtick is, go big on it with communications. Employees, customers, partners, peers and politicians need to see it, hear it and feel it too.

We’re lucky to have worked with many businesses experiencing rapid growth and working towards their next liquidity event. We can turn that energy into a compelling story. Our new service called StepChange helps firms get their story straight, prioritise audiences and invest in communications to keep them relevant and compelling.

It’s literally a step-by-step process of listening, planning, engaging and activating. By listening to employees, customers, influencers and competitors: planning the plot; the characters, the back story and the message with business leaders, we help firms identify their strengths and points of differentiation. From there we engage with employees, partners and customers to get their perspective and make the narrative their own, so they can share the story.

In so doing we help firms realise their potential, achieve even greater growth, attract investment and stakeholder support. In a nutshell, it’s about translating commercial decisions into communications strategy that delivers commercial value and helping businesses make little steps to deliver a bigger, bolder impact.

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