November 13, 2018

How McKinsey Uses Storytelling to … Tell Its Stories

McKinsey & Company is one of those firms that almost needs no introduction.

Founded in 1926 as an accounting consultancy, McKinsey is today one of the largest and most successful management consulting firms in the world, with offices in more than 120 cities worldwide and a workforce of more than 27,000 people. It has also been credited with more or less creating the management consulting industry as it is now known,  helping to establish many of the business norms and practices — including the “up or out” policy, where consultants who are not promoted are asked to leave over time — that are common today.

It serves a broad mix of private, public and social sector institutions, and helps “clients make significant and lasting improvements to their performance and realize their most important goals.”

And many of the firm’s alumni go on to become CEOs and executives of major corporations, including Google, American Express, Boeing, IBM, Westinghouse Electric, AT&T, PepsiCo and many more. As of 2008, McKinsey alums held CEO positions with 16 corporations that have more than $2 billion in revenue, and USA Today ranked the firm as “the most likely company to work for and become a future CEO of a major corporation,” with odds of 1 out of 690.

McKinsey … is McKinsey.

That reputation is one of the reasons that the firm can be so useful as a case study, because whatever it is that they’ve been doing for the last 90+ years is apparently effective and worth emulating.

Case in point: McKinsey understands the value of content.

The firm launched McKinsey Quarterly, its own, in-house thought leadership publication, in 1964 and has been building a world-class content operation ever since, expanding into digital content, podcasts, events, books and more.

This approach has paid dividends for the firm because, as Roanne Neuwirth with the Content Marketing Institute explained in 2016, because it engages directly with the firm’s target audience — top level business leaders — and drives the conversation.

“Executives like to be surprised and intrigued with ideas they might not have thought of yet — ideas that move beyond the typical and tactical. The executive-level content created by thought leadership powerhouse McKinsey & Company exemplifies this approach. Its content agenda tackles the key issues and challenges business strategy, technology, emerging markets, and digital revolution that are addressed in the business press and by many vendors and providers. But McKinsey’s perspectives have become required reading for many boardrooms and executive tables because they push beyond standard observations; McKinsey provides the “so what” road map to help its audience think differently. Take for example its publication, Service Innovation in a Digital World, an article that pushes traditional players to embrace change, then clearly outlines the specific imperatives required to be competitive. This level of strategic insight raises the stakes on content development for executives.”

Here’s what I love about McKinsey’s content:

It’s everywhere…

McKinsey Quarterly began its life as a print publication, and it still offers it that way. But the content that’s produced by the in-house editorial team isn’t siloed in print anymore. It’s everywhere — audio, social, digital, video and much more. There’s even a condensed version. Best of all, as part of this multiplatform approach, the firm also adds new content to the mix as well, including everything from videos with stakeholders, to Q&A sessions with consultants, to slide decks and infographics.

It’s actionable…

McKinsey’s business is turning strategies into action, so it makes sure to extend that ethos to its content as well, always tying in actionable advice and steps to take for everything it recommends in its data and other reports. Its Featured Insights series (above), for instance, takes a look at a revolving set of 10-15 problems facing many businesses in McKinsey’s orbit, explaining the challenges and then showing readers how the firm solves them for its clients. This is demonstrating value in action.

It’s smart…

Content is only as valuable as it is useful and accurate, and McKinsey knows that if it wants to maintain its reputation as a top-tier consulting firm it can’t be putting out fluffy or uninteresting content. These articles and videos are often the first contact that potential clients have with the McKinsey brand, so they have to be good. Not just good, great. Better than expected for free and worth seeking out again and again.

Like what you see? Want to explore what content can do for your business? Click here or hit me up at tim@wearelayup.com.

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