About three weeks ago, a childhood friend called to tell me he was in an awful situation and didn’t know what to do.
As a principal of a well-known school, for the first time, he was under serious pressure to give answers to ten alleged missing children who went camping expected to last for three days but were yet to return.
Before he revealed what the problem was, he was already setting me up for an atrocious narrative.
“Calm down, it is not as bad as it seems,” I responded over the phone.
Then I quickly rushed to his office.
It was evening; the parents of the missing kids were becoming impatient. They were ready to use violence and threats to force him to produce their kids. My friend was also scared that if the news should break out to the press, the school might lose its credibility.
I must admit it was a serious crisis.
Then as an expert in this field, I told him this is the right time to control the narrative.
My confused friend asked me: “What narrative?”
To give an answer to his question, I asked him: “Has any child gone missing in the history of this school?”
He answered: “No” Then I also asked him: “How many teachers went with the kids for camping?”
He answered: “Three trained security men, four teachers, and two ancillary assistants.” Immediately, I said to him that is where you have to pick your narrative.
“Go out there and tell the parents to be calm, while you emphasise on these few points,” I said to him. He did, and later the children and the team arrived late that evening.
What if they never returned?
What if the news went public?
Would that have affected the school’s credibility?
The answer to this question would be “yes or no” depending on the knowledge of such individual on the unique rules of controlling narratives.
It is important to know you can influence others by what you say and how you pass your message. This is the reason you should learn to control your narrative in any and every situation. And to do that make sure you:
1. Deliver a Unique Message
Amid the crisis, it is important to deliver a unique message that will serve as a succour point for your audience.
For my friend, his own unique message would be that “such has never happened in the history of the school. And that trained security men went with the kids.” I can tell you that no matter how devastated the parents may be, this message will definitely give them hope.
2. Stay Consistent with Your Message
After delivering a unique message that can serve as a succour point, you need to stay consistent. This is important because in situations where the press is involved they will put so much pressure on you to get more information.
If you waver from your unique message then you have created a news frenzy situation that will alert the public to your carelessness. The truth or facts always remain consistent. It’s just like arithmetic.
3. Comport Yourself
What we say is important and how we act gives assurance. You can be consistent with your message and yet your body is saying something else. When you do this, you are contradicting your narrative.
Everything about your narrative must pass the same message. This is why phycologist maintains that facts can be altered in a confident and audible presentation.
4. Don’t be Apologetic, Avoid Self-judgement
The worst thing my friend would have done was to get into self-judgment. Self-judgement makes you apologetic and creates more chaos than provide a solution. There is a place for calming the situation but you must be careful not be repeatedly apologetic for your actions. When you do that it means there is little or no chance of a solution.
5. Consider your delivery method
In controlling your narrative, it is important to consider how you deliver it.
I remember driving my father’s car to an alumni meeting after graduating from high school against his instructions of not touching the car. On my way back from the meeting I had a terrible accident and immediately remembered my father’s instructions.
Guess what I did, I controlled the narrative. I called my father’s auto mechanic to come to the scene. He came and saw that the car was a wreck. He took me home and this was the message he communicated to my dad. “Sir, you need to thank God today. Your son would have lost his two legs in a terrible accident with your car.
He kept emphasising on that message. My dad saw what happened from his point of view. And then, I was spared.
Controlling your narrative will determine the perspective with which your audience will use in relating to your Brand. And this is why I find the words of E.L. Doctorow an American author to be true as he says: “There is no longer any such thing as fiction or non-fiction; there’s only narrative.”