Do you have the guts to cut through?

Many brands are trying, and struggling, to create better work, which speaks to their audiences and drives the bottom-line. Carrie Osman, Founder and CEO at CRUXY & CO, argues that the quest for engagement has to start from within.

Entrepreneurs, visionaries, innovators – the business world has become suffused with individuals who proclaim to be drivers of change. Whether the claims are well-founded or merely buzzword-hype, they are heaping pressure on more traditional companies with greater heritage to inject fundamental change into their business. Add to that: pressure augmenting from all sides from sliding profitability, increased regulation, waning prospective client attention and the allure of prospects in other verticals.

Many underestimate what it takes – they think you can plaster over cracks with a new message to the market, send out revamped content, amp up your sales initiatives. All of the above tactics are means to shy away from what business transformation demands.

Everyone seems to want their boss, or their board, to change – but how many of them are really willing to shift the envelope themselves?

There are the ignorant:

those who have the desire for change who don’t know how to go about it. Many go hell for leather – they believe new initiatives will increase the business’ market traction, share and growth – but this is change for change’s sake and without the necessary resources, scale and ambition this will fail. 

Many jump to pushing out information about their business, but, as Raconteur’s research on the C-suite shows, 71 per cent think branded content is plain boring. 

Some set new targets but fail to forge the path to reaching them and therefore lack the support to sustain the ambition.

Others are so close to the business that their internal insight means they prioritise an objective or initiative that has no impact in and outside the business — often to the detriment of weightier business problems.

Then there are those who don’t have the guts:

Change has to bleed from the top, so if the leader isn’t motivated, is feigning to change solely to pacify a business stakeholder, or pivots at the slightest suggestion of another’s idea, the business will fall to becoming mediocre at best, and at worst will crumble. 

Competition is rising, and the strategy that got us here is not necessarily the strategy that will make the business thrive for the next 10 years. Without energy of change, someone will seize market share and P&L will be dented, drastically.

So, what does it take to make change happen?

  • Purpose – focus, a critical eye and a challenging perspective are key to understanding why the business must change. Without these and without a meaning for change, the exercise is meaningless and superficial. Like Freddie Ossberg said in light of the research: “It’s better to do one thing well than to blast the market with mediocrity”.
  • Rigour –  a purpose on its own can be seen to be fluffy. This must be married with a business case, which helps drive the business forward. Defining a purpose requires long hours, stakeholder management, and pulling in a number of different players in your organisation. Don’t think a deck is enough – you are going to have to think about all the ways to influence and add rigour and flair to them all. 
  • Vision –  The leader needs to have crystal clear vision and a clearly delineated path to achieving it. If he/she doesn’t, how will the rest of the company? The business’ future lies in their head, but is not mapped out for others to follow
  • Buy-in – A strong cable team is one thing but if they don’t understand the vision and worse, they aren’t bought in, then the business will stagnate. Change demands that everyone is on-board. Every action must be infused with a purpose to achieve the ultimate goal.
  • Motivation – Without fuel how can the business accelerate? Relentless energy throughout the business is essential to drive change forward. As Jeremy Waite reminded us at Back to the Future of Content Marketing: “if you wait until there’s a case study in your industry, you’ve waited too long.”

Think before you blame upwards, or claim that your company will not let you change.

Reflect on whether you have pushed hard enough in the right direction to prove you really want it. If you have, and the company and leadership is really blocking you, tell them.

Build the business case to prove what is necessary. If they still don’t listen, try again. Once you have done everything in your arsenal, you can say you have given it your all – then it’s worth moving on.

Change is hard. It should be.

It is never going to be easy to shift the mindset of another, so stop thinking you are in for a smooth ride and remind yourself that you do have the guts to drive it from within.

Carrie Osman is the Chief Provocateur at CRUXY & CO. She spoke at Raconteur’s event ‘Back to the future of Content Marketing’ on the principles that underpin great work.