In my previous blog entry, I outlined the process needed for organizations to establish a sustainable storytelling infrastructure. Today, let’s take a closer look at the first step.

Unlike Field of Dreams, in which Ray Kinsella follows the voice that says, “Build it and they will come,” a sustainable storytelling infrastructure requires more than hope to drive outcomes: it requires a strong foundation. Organizations that effectively deliver on the past-present-future continuum that underlies great heritage storytelling mine their inventory of experience, define the quantity of stories needed, and understand when and how the content should be delivered.

Successful organizations begin with a heritage program vision. They build this using methodologies that align and engage key stakeholders in the development of the goals, audiences, messaging and behaviors they want to influence before they ever set pen to paper. They also define metrics to assess the impact of shared content. Lastly, they define the high potential touch-points for engaging audiences with content, and focus their investments on where and how targeted content can be delivered to most influence the desired behaviors and outcomes.

Let’s consider an organization that is in a talent war and has defined the need to hire more millennial engineers from top-tier universities. The process begins with building awareness among the pool of high-potential candidates. The next step is to increase the number of candidates who submit applications and show up for scheduled interviews. Then, they conclude the process by increasing the offer-to-acceptance ratio and ensuring that a new hire arrives on the first day with a higher level of engagement.

With the objectives clear and an understanding of what compels a candidate at each step in the process, an organization can reach into its vast inventory of experience and pull forward the specific and relevant content needed to motivate the candidate to take the next step. Also important to consider will be the tone and structure of the stories, as well as the most effective mode of delivery at each step: video, social media, blogs, brochures and/or travelling campus exhibits.

Even if the process is well managed, the content must be compelling in order to be effective. One pitfall is that organizations may be too close to their historical content and stories. They believe that the same content that engages captive stakeholders will also engage stakeholders who are not yet emotionally committed to the organization. They fall into the trap of telling the same stories in the same way, believing that if they just share it, they will come. This often leaves an organization without desired results and a poor return on their investments in heritage-based communications.

Organizations that efficiently and effectively leverage their heritage to drive their future must first be aligned around what they are trying to accomplish, as well as with whom, where and how. They must also understand that in the face of rapid change, storytelling must adapt to changing priorities. With methodologies that quickly build a shared vision—overall, or for a specific initiative like a brand rollout or corporate anniversary—an organization positions itself for a successful and sustainable storytelling program.

Next, we’ll explore the “compass north” of great storytelling programs: core narratives.

We invite you to follow and learn the seven steps for sustainable storytelling and explore in more detail the people, processes and technologies that enable each. I invite you to share your thoughts and stories about how we can help turn this trend into a consistent approach for how your organization can effectively integrate these steps into your corporate storytelling.

Corporate Storytelling: Getting results through a sustainable infrastructure
Step 1: Confirm the Vision
Step 2: Craft Foundational Narratives
Step 3: Capture Relevant History
Step 4: Curate for Use
Step 5: Create Compelling Stories
Step 6: Communicate for Impact
Step 7: Confirm