Storytelling is hot. New business books, journal articles, conference topics and no less than five blog posts in my inbox over the past week confirm that corporate storytelling has achieved near-hype status. Communications firms seem to be falling over themselves to demonstrate what great filmmakers, authors and The History Factory already have at the core of their success: great storytelling.

Our recent blog post series by Adam Nemett distills The History Factory’s 35 years of experience into some best practices for crafting and using great storytelling for business purposes. In this blog series, I’m taking a less glamorous but equally critical perspective: outlining the process needed for organizations to establish a sustainable storytelling infrastructure. This foundation can drive great brands, authentically engage employees, deliver meaningful customer experiences, win and retain talent, and ensure that an organization can grow without losing its character.

So what DO great storytelling organizations do to leverage their inventory of experience? Simply put, they master the past-present-future continuum. They understand the importance of storytelling in engaging target audiences and know what makes for a compelling story. And they have the purpose, processes, people and technologies that deliver on the seven steps of a sustainable storytelling platform:

Step 1: Confirm the Vision
Storytelling is great, but clarity of intent is critical. Organizations that move the needle use methodologies that align authentic content with business strategies, enabling them to target audiences with stories that drive behaviors which yield results.

Step 2: Craft Foundational Narratives
Companies identified as “Great Places to Work” understand that culture trumps strategy. They build forward-looking narratives, rooted by their past, that define and authenticate their character. These storylines are the enduring threads that help recruit, unite and retain employees, accelerate successful acquisitions, and build customer loyalty.

Step 3: Capture Relevant History
The perspective that heritage is backward-looking is belied by the fact that organizations make history every day. However, any organization’s attempt to preserve all of its history is a fool’s errand. Policies, technologies and processes that enable them to efficiently identify, gather, preserve and organize relevant historical materials are necessary.

Step 4: Curate for Use
Digital media, content marketing and the demand to guide the audience experience has made the thirst for content nearly unquenchable. Leaders and communicators expect real-time access to authentic, relevant content that they can put to use for specific business purposes. Sustained storytelling involves having a program that mines and delivers content as well as tracks its use to inform ongoing collection strategies.

Step 5: Create Compelling Stories
Plot, characters and many other factors guide quality content. The difference between inconsistent quality and a sustainable storytelling program that delivers results: a “road map” for story development based on proven story structure that quickly yields engaging and compelling content.

Step 6: Communicate for Impact
Many organizations request solutions like a publication, an exhibit or social media content. Our first question is “Why?” The format and media used to deliver content matter.  Understanding the characteristics of the audience and how/where a target audience must be engaged informs the appropriate size, tone, and medium for storytelling.

Step 7: Confirm
Earlier, I mentioned that clearly defining behaviors and/or metrics would indicate when an organization’s stories are having an impact. Did the number of qualified job applicants increase? Were target stories used more often by management in staff meetings? Did social media metrics improve? Did annual engagement scores rise?  Measurement helps organizations adjust story content during campaigns as well as confirm that efforts are delivering a positive return.

Over the next few weeks, I will share more about 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