February 11, 2015 • Rick Beller
In my last blog post, I shared the first step toward the development of a sustainable storytelling program: Confirm the Vision. The alignment achieved during this process—of program goals, target audiences, metrics and behaviors to be encouraged, and key messaging— provides the critical business lens for an organization to focus its investments to capture, interpret and share relevant heritage content from its broad inventory of experience.
Complementing this business lens, organizations that succeed in building a sustainable storytelling program next focus on setting the story foundation for their program. This is accomplished by developing a limited number of core narratives that reflect the essence of who they are and why, what makes them different, and what has and will sustain their success over time.
Unlike marketing messaging, which may change frequently or vary across products, core narratives must reinforce an organization’s culture and brand. These are the narratives that reflect the organization’s DNA and translate across global workforces, audiences and markets. They are authentic, relatable and sustainable. For some organizations, these narratives emerge from the core values and mission; for others, it may be a century of anticipating and innovating in response to national or client needs. Or perhaps it’s a narrative that conveys the central role that hiring the best and brightest talent has played in the organization’s success.
Core narratives emerge when an organization views its unique experience—history that is both recent and long past—through the lens of its heritage program vision. The History Factory recently worked with a global publisher that has grown both organically and through acquisitions. The organization was moving into a new headquarters and understood the power of visual storytelling. It recognized the potential in building core narratives to unify its global work force and differentiate it in the eyes of current and potential authors. These narratives could be illustrated in compelling heritage exhibits.
Armed with the client’s vision and our proven research and story development methodologies, The History Factory delved into nearly 200 years of history and identified five core narratives: the organization’s passion for publishing, its commitment to authors, its story of global growth, its role as pioneer and innovator in its industry, and the power of publishing to transform societies. These core narratives provided the foundation for the exhibits as well as a sustainable framework for continuing to capture, organize and share unique stories through a broad array of communications.
This case study highlights core narratives’ ability to support consistent messaging that connects target audiences to something fundamental about an organization. These narratives also provide the basis for adding new stories that continually authenticate and reinforce the core narratives. This capability is critical: Organizations make history every day, and a sustainable storytelling program requires content that is contemporary, is tethered to tradition and reinforces the future direction of the firm. This past-present-future continuum is critical.
Operationally, core narratives also drive the efficiency of sustainable storytelling programs. We often undertake what we call discovery programs, which are designed to help our clients reach out to people across a global organization to gather authentic content. Established core narratives provide the focus needed to target the collection of relevant artifacts, images and stories while reinforcing the messaging in the core narratives. By providing an organizing structure, core narratives also help the organization quickly curate content and make it easily accessible for use by communicators.
Whether an organization is a high-growth, new-wealth organization reinforcing the core tenets of the founder to the broader organization, or a global corporation that needs to unite a diverse base of employees, heritage-based storytelling matters. By looking inward and interpreting its history through the lens of its program vision, an organization can identify and develop core narratives that will enable it to efficiently capture, share and sustain a cohesive storytelling program.
My next blog post will explore the third step in building a sustainable storytelling infrastructure: capturing relevant history. This post will introduce how policies, technologies and processes can be used to more efficiently identify, gather, preserve and organize the relevant historical materials necessary for sustainable storytelling.
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