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How Do You Tell Your Company’s Full History in a Short Documentary?

November 7, 2013 • History Factory

This is a screenshot from a video History Factory produced for Weight Watchers.
Our work for Weight Watchers follows the three-act structure, introducing company founder Jean Nidetch, portraying her challenges and concluding with results.

We’ve discussed in the past the intense challenge of trying to cram a complete company history into a short video. It results in a documentary with a disjointed medley of loosely connected facts but not enough genuine narrative to be memorable and effectively engage the audience.

So, your CEO just told you to create a documentary about your company’s history, and challenged you to keep it under five minutes.

How should you approach this challenge?

If you go for completeness, you get a rough assembly of disconnected facts. And if you try to cover three or four stories in the allotted minutes, the documentary takes vast jumps across years or even decades, whiplashing the audience and making them wonder what was omitted.

At the risk of being a bit too clever, this is where positioning the documentary comes in. With a carefully crafted title—such as “Turning Points in our History” or “Three Decisions that Helped Build our Company”—the expectations for comprehensiveness evaporate.

This approach allows you to stick to five minutes and narrow the focus to the three or four most important stories from a company’s history. It also provides ample time for substantial storytelling by introducing critical historic characters, illustrating the adversity they face, and tying together their decisions, the outcome and the effects to your company’s future.

We’re always on the hunt for unique approaches to corporate documentary storytelling. Feel free to share examples that you appreciate and find effective, or those you feel don’t work.

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