Company “profiles” are everywhere today – on corporate websites, in job postings, and on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. With one click of the “About Us” link, anyone, anywhere can hear your company story.
So why are so many stories and profiles so weak, so boring and uninspired?
If this is one of the best shots at telling a company story, why do countless organizations settle for a poorly written, poorly designed, dry-as-dust blurb?
Bringing a company story to life and giving it impact and reach is one of the best ways to engage customers, the public, and prospective employees.
Some of the world’s best-known and most successful brands already know this. Check out the “About Us” or company back stories produced by Zappos, Google, Starbucks, Lego and Nike. You’ll find stories and videos that draw you in and make you want to know more. In the best cases, you’ll find yourself connecting in new and unexpected ways to the brand and its vision.
An Opportunity to Dig Deeper
While I’m convinced the “About Us” section is an important first step for any organization, there are countless other ways to build even greater momentum around your company’s history.
As we’ve seen with our clients, a compelling and more in-depth historical narrative can do wonders to rally employees and customers around a company’s vision. More detailed histories connect employees and customers to the company founders on a much more personal level, and illuminate the reasons the organization was created in the first place. A well-told history also underscores a company’s resiliency and staying power, provides some valuable lessons learned, and gets employees excited about the opportunities ahead.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, historians and corporate consultants John T. Seaman Jr. and George David Smith discuss the impact of historical company storytelling that they’ve done for various companies. “History is a rich explanatory tool with which executives can make a case for change and motivate people to overcome challenges,” they write. “Taken to a higher level, it also serves as a potent problem-solving tool, one that offers pragmatic insights, valid generalizations, and meaningful perspectives – a way through management fads and the noise of the moment to what really matters.”
Some Terrific Options for Telling Your Company Story
If you want to take the next step toward improving the company history you’re telling, here’s some options to consider, based on our own experience with this work:
- A well-researched and tightly woven historical narrative on your company’s history and impact over the years on the company website.
- A longer-form narrative history that includes various interviews, timelines, graphics and photography and is produced as a full-length magazine, brochure, e-book or coffee table book.
- A video narrative history, complete with interviews and anecdotes from key company leaders and employees over the years.
- A short narrative history produced as part of an employee handbook or introductory video for new and prospective employees. This type of asset helps connect new employees at a critical time to the company’s history, values and vision.
- A history wall that includes narratives, photographs, and video interviews to be displayed at company headquarters as a “living history museum.”
A growing number of companies have bought into the power of telling their history in more interesting ways. In fact, many company leaders attribute their success with building a powerful brand to a well-honed story around their company’s history and vision for the future.
One of our favorites comes from Google. On the company website, the company shares its history under the headline: “Our Story: From the garage to the Googleplex.”
Zappos does a similarly beautiful job on its website, under the headline: “The Zappos Family Story – In The Beginning, Let There Be Shoes."
Starbucks reveals some interesting facts and history in its short online history on their company website.
We also admire the following video histories of Lego and Nike.
We’d like to hear from you. What’s your favorite company history story, and why does it resonate for you?
—Meg McSherry Breslin