The communications team plays a key role here – ensuring everything the council writes or says about itself reflects the corporate narrative.
This doesn’t mean slavishly shoehorning corporate narrative text into all your copy, but using key phrases and elements in press releases, speeches, introductions to policy documents where it feels right will effectively embed the narrative. If you’ve got your story right, of course, this will be an easy thing to do – your story will reflect the reality of what you do and where you’re going – and your communications should be doing this already.
Forward plan and timetable some time to evaluate over the next year to check how your narrative is being used, who is using it, where and why.
An audit of your communications materials will give you some data, but adding a specific question or two to internal and external surveys that’s already been scheduled will give you more useful feedback. Encourage informal feedback (and, of course, stories) from staff and residents – keep listening to everyone who matters in your area.
Your never ending story
Your story will change and develop over time. Oldham Council’s “co-operative council” narrative was well established, but not well enough understood by residents, so the narrative has been developed and sharpened to make it more relevant to local people. Both Hackney and Essex councils continue to refresh and adapt their narratives to reflect changing times and priorities.
Themes that are important to your council now may not be in the future. New issues that shape the way you do things will emerge and need to become part of your story. Keep updating your story as this happens – and make sure the right people keep influencing your corporate narrative as it changes and develops.