Oxford: Narrative Coherence

In my last post I talked about the underpinnings of narrative theory. I mentioned OSU and the Project Narrative Project and I gave a brief overview of Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm. All of that information is great, but, as you (or your organization) considers using story to reach customers or even internally to reach employees, what elements of story are necessary to reach others? The next few weeks I’ll be spending more time discussing why, and how, story ‘works’.

As you consider crafting your brand story, step number one is making sure your story is coherent. Coherent narratives will, typically, make sense. They are consistent. Externally, this means that you are communicating a consistent story to your customers about your product, about your services, about your engagement, etc. Internally, this means you are communicating organizational values, mission/vision, and goals in a way is not confusing.

It’s interesting. When Fisher developed his Narrative Paradigm he focused on characters. Are characters acting in a consistent/reliable way? Does the story connect to other similar stories? Are characters acting in a way that is connected to their character? Fisher realized that we want connectivity and we want stories that allow our minds to see connections.

Practically, what does this mean for you and your organization? As I think about ‘coherence’ my mind reverts to integrity and credibility. We (customers/employees) want to know that the corporations we buy from, support, or work for have similar and consistent actions. We want to see and be part of a consistent narrative. When a corporation veers from their identity, their story, then we rebel. We are confused. Or, when an organization does not clarify and specify their story, we clamor for more. We want to know, especially today, why an organization acts in a specific way.

As you think about your organization, is your story coherent? Does it make sense? Is it consistent?

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