This is a screenshot of Huntington's 150 year anniversary commemorative website. The screen is showing the company timeline.

Content and composition can have a significant impact on the value of a company’s timeline. Part one of this blog series identified common missteps and challenges companies face when assembling their organization’s past. We pick up the conversation by exploring trends and strategies that can help transform your company’s timeline from an underused resource into a platform to effectively showcase your institution’s heritage. Three ways to ensure you achieve this: diversify your content; focus on a specific event, product or service; and remain true to your company’s character.

Company timelines are often conceived when someone in an organization attempts to organize vast amounts of information from the span of the company’s history, such as where new offices opened or when a particular product launched. This wealth of data can yield insights into your organization’s culture and character. It can also help you identify tried and true strategies for success, points of inspiration, and vulnerabilities within the brand. However, this data is often trapped in an Excel spreadsheet, which benefits no one. Here’s now you can create a better corporate timeline and move from mundane to memorable content:

1. Diversify your content

In today’s dynamic digital landscape, content creators are expected to pair compelling copy with visually interesting media. By illustrating a timeline with images, videos and infographics, you can create an engaging user experience. Chanel’s “Inside Chanel” timeline uses a variety of visuals, from historical photographs and advertisements to product sketches and commercials.

Effective timelines, however, have more than interesting images and video content. They feature a range of elements and details that illustrate how events unfold. Statistics, geographic locations and profiles of key personalities can help audiences gain a more complete understanding of your company’s heritage, building brand awareness, trust and authenticity. Features like topographical maps and audio can add dimension to your historical content and provide an immersive user experience

2. Zero in on a specific event, product or service

This is a screenshot of NASA's website, which shows a timeline of the Apollo moon landing.
Image captions link users to the Associated Press photo archives, highlighting the wealth of historical imagery the company catalogs — and sells.

Cataloging changes from year to year can be useful, but your timeline shouldn’t be wed to the Gregorian calendar. Consider highlighting a single pivotal event. How did the day progress from hour to hour, or minute by minute?

News organizations, for instance, are extremely successful at documenting time at the micro-level. The Associated Press used this zeroed-in approach in telling the story behind their coverage of Apollo 11’s launch and lunar landing. In a newsroom, decisions are made every minute, and a timeline that showcases events occurring only once a year does not accurately represent the fast-paced culture of an organization that operates on a second-by-second time scale.

Similarly, companies can use a timeline to highlight an individual product or service. For retail brands with products that have endured for decades or were pioneered more than a century ago, a timeline can illustrate innovation and reliability. This tactic allows companies to intimately outline how a product’s features have responded to changes in the marketplace. It can also highlight differentiation during the relaunch of an existing product, and can be a source of both excitement and anxiety for consumers.

3. Remain true to your company’s character

Traditional timelines are not for everyone. Honor your organization’s character by building a timeline that reflects what makes your company unique. HarperCollins Publishers created a bicentennial timeline that resembles a digital bookshelf and evokes the storytelling spirit of the brand. The 200-year-old publisher’s interpretation of a timeline integrates a cast of characters from the company’s past — illustrators, authors, printing partners and literary figures.

One company can have multiple audiences. Do you have numerous branches or locations? Different product divisions or brands? Multinational organizations, in particular, face the challenge of telling a narrative to audiences who speak different languages and come from diverse cultural backgrounds.

While it can be useful to have a single definitive account of your organization’s history, your company’s timeline does not have to exist on a single page of your website. Organizations can dedicate a website to their narrative, or tether a timeline to a specific event like an anniversary launch.

This is a screenshot of Huntington Bank's corporate anniversary website, which shows a timeline that charts the company’s history across regions in the United States.
The History Factory created an anniversary website and timeline for Huntington Bank that charted the company’s history across various regions in the United States.

Your first inclination might be to build your timeline online, but a timeline can also be expanded beyond digital platforms. Physical objects can lay the foundation for a three-dimensional timeline in your headquarters, corporate event space or brand museum. How and where your timeline is built depends on the specific needs of your institution, which can include cultural and business objectives.

Looking to your heritage can help you grow your market share or build an affinity for your brand among consumers. A timeline translates that vision into an accessible narrative that is grounded in the evidence, the proof points, of your past. By diversifying the types of content included in your timeline and honoring your organization’s character, you can make its history relevant to internal and external audiences alike.

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