New Report: The Succession Trap. How the C-suite thinks about leadership transitions and why it's wrong

4 Benefits of Corporate History Publications

January 30, 2020 • History Factory

This article was originally published in 2015 but updated in 2020.

History Factory is known for producing award-winning and nationally recognized company history books and other publications. It’s an application of authentic content that we’ve been doing for nearly 40 years, and often the most cherished organizational keepsake from a particular corporate milestone or event. And while corporate histories and commemorative books are great showpieces for just about any organization, the business case behind producing a corporate history really needs to be considered before giving the green light on such a significant undertaking.

But that’s usually the first challenge: realizing that such publications are a significant undertaking that sometimes require many months or even a few years to craft. Producing a company history book is not like producing a blog post or white paper. It needs to not only capture the true DNA of a company but also bring it to life through words and images. It needs to have authenticity on every page, with extensive research and insights. Above all else, it has to be a damned good read. As a result, selecting a skilled author is vital. It can be the difference between a boring tract of dry history and an engaging publication that brings past events to life—intellectually, emotionally, contextually.

An example of this, which we at History Factory are especially proud to be associated with, is Verizon Untethered by Ivan Seidenberg, former chairman and CEO of Verizon. History Factory’s team worked closely with Seidenberg to tell the story of the founding of Verizon and the subsequent transformation of the telecommunications industry. Viewed through the unique lens of Seidenberg and his leadership team, and involving more than 50 interviews, the book is a testimony to the power of putting the organization ahead of the individual.

Company history books have a unique niche within the corporate communications and marketing arsenal. It isn’t something a company does annually, but there are circumstances where producing a publication makes sense. Here are a few reasons why a company should consider producing a publication:

To create a definitive history.

This is a photograph of a stack of company history books titled 'Verizon Untethered: An Insider's Story of Innovation and Disruption'.

Nothing is more authoritative than a well-researched commemorative history or book. A publication serves as your official history and handy reference guide for employees, investors, customers and other stakeholders. It’s an invaluable onboarding tool for new recruits, whether as a welcome gift or as a resource for HR or line management to construct introductory sessions. In effect, a publication saves time in providing an encyclopedic resource whenever a rapid reference is needed. The answer is often much more easily found in an index than digging through archives, floundering through a digital asset management system, or many of the countless other places where company records are kept.

To bring your history up to date.

This is a photograph of two pages from a custom publication Huntington created. The pages shown are from chapter 3, which covers the years 1873-1892.

With many big events over a prolonged period of time, a corporate history book provides the opportunity to celebrate your organization’s brand, and reflect where the organization is today and where it is headed.

To commemorate a major company anniversary or milestone.

This is a photograph of Sherwin-William's corporate history publication titled 'The 150th Anniversary History of the Sherwin-Williams Company'. The company produced it to commemorate a major milestone.

The very nature of a milestone or company anniversary gives you the opportunity to put your history to use as your organization reflects on where it’s been in the context of where it is going. Authentic content like a company publication provides expressions of values that resonate over time and help a company with a proud heritage differentiate itself from the Johnny-come-lately competition. Often, publications can be released as the crowning event of an anniversary year, a means of marking the milestone for time immortal.

To utilize a pivotal moment in your evolution.

This is a photograph of Discover's corporate history publication called 'Voices of Discover: The Stories and Culture of Our People'.

History is made every day, and documenting transformative events while they are still fresh in everyone’s mind creates an incredibly valuable knowledge management tool and cultural lodestone for the future. We worked with one client to document the boost to its esprit de corps as the company fought off a hostile takeover attempt. The fighting spirit sparked by this defining event transformed the leadership team’s strategic approach and set them on an accelerated growth trajectory. The company history book provides a means to exemplify the spirit of what makes the company tick—not just 100 years ago, but today and going forward.

Of course, there are countless other strategic reasons why an organization might produce a company history book. Sometimes it comes down to the CEO simply wanting a commemorative history book, and when that’s the case, it will get done. But remember, just because there’s a story to tell doesn’t mean it needs to be done in a book. While a tangible item like a publication may seem appealing, consider how it might translate into a video or virtual reality experience for potentially even higher impact. Keep in mind whether it makes sense in the context of your strategic goals and objectives, and whether it will support the organization in other ways than simply looking good on a coffee table.

Want to learn more about how History Factory can help you bring your corporate history to life? Contact us today.


More About Publications

In Conversation: Rethinking Competitive Advantage with Ram Charan

Featured Podcast Guest: Ram Charan The following is an excerpt from the transcript of a… Read More

Looking Ahead: Publications and Storytelling in 2021

As we will soon turn the page on 2020, let’s take a look at what… Read More

Company Publications: 10 Things You Need to Know

With hundreds of books and other publications to our credit over the past 40 years,… Read More

Looking Ahead: The Future of Corporate History Publications

With 2020 just around the corner, we wanted to give our readers a recap of… Read More