Beyond words

Beyond words

Guest author, Todd Coopee, Founder & CEO of Studio 91

Studio 91 recently marked its 10th anniversary in business. As the milestone approached, we turned our gaze inward and took a critical look at our entire business model. Having worked with Maria Ford of Phrase Strategy on several client projects, we wanted to experience the unique Essential Story Process for ourselves.

Discovery & validation

Most effective exercise programs require participants to commit time and energy to see positive results. The Essential Story process is a little like that. As Phrase Strategy facilitated the Discovery phase of the process, we were prompted to answer thoughtful questions about our brand’s perceived value and how we differentiate from other businesses offering similar services.

Phrase Strategy then aligned our responses with a review of our past successes and failures as well as with the perceptions of our long-term clients, several of which Maria Ford interviewed one-on-one. Her effective questioning process elicited constructive feedback about our working relationships with clients as well as how we are perceived.

Phrase Strategy synthesized these various inputs into an updated profile of Studio 91, articulating a new Essential Story that we could engage with and respond to concretely. Our biggest takeaway from this part of the process was this:

While some of our impressions of our business were validated, the Studio 91 story was also incomplete!

We discovered that the depth and breadth of our services were not always clear in the minds of our clients. Many knew that Studio 91 did “A” but were surprised to hear we also did “B” and “C”.

Go-forward plan

Phrase Strategy packaged our Essential Story it into a Corporate Phrasebook®—a beautifully designed document that articulates our key messages, value, and differentiation statements, and concretely defines our brand voice. A printed version of the Phrasebook enjoys a prominent location at our offices for ongoing reference, and an electronic version resides on the Studio 91 intranet.

We have found there is a kind of magical power in having our brand’s intentions concretely expressed and physically present.

The next step was transforming the Essential Story into design and digital forms, and Phrase Strategy oversaw and helped guide this roll-out process as well, working closely with our own creative and digital experts to develop:

  • a new “S91” logo and corporate colour palette
  • a new tagline, We close the loop
  • a new corporate website that brings the Essential Story into three dimensions
  • an updated portfolio of our work architected to convey the depth and breadth of our experience

Essential business practice

It surprised us to find that our Essential Story could and should be applied to non-digital aspects of the business. It has positively transformed three areas of our practice:

  • Client service – A key takeaway from the Essential Story experience is that our clients consider Studio 91 to be a trusted advisor. We are more conscious, now, to always “close this loop”. For example, we have greater intent to provide responsive, proactive service and foster ongoing, two-way communication in our client interactions.
  • Talent network – One of Studio 91’s key differentiators is a well-honed talent network. When we look to partner with another service provider, the Corporate Phrasebook® grounds our decision making to ensure that any prospective partner shares our vision and core values.
  • Business development – As a small business, Studio 91 has gravitated towards a roster of clients that include small- and mid-size businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and associations. The Essential Story process re-affirmed this fit and we use it to consistently articulate the value we bring to our chosen markets.

Even after ten years established in our business, Studio 91 found the experience with Phrase Strategy to be transformative. Nothing was “broken”, we simply sought to refresh and update our brand. Yet, the Essential Story process and subsequent guidance in rolling that story out into brand assets has unexpectedly aligned every aspect of how we do business. We are experiencing a new level of clarity and confidence that results in overall better success with every business engagement.