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Recording Your History: What Happened Five Minutes Ago?

June 14, 2016 • History Factory

This is a screenshot of Lockheed Martin's website showing their company timeline for the past 100 years.
The line that once separated the past from the present has all but disappeared in this digital age of citizen journalism. History is both then and now. It unfurls on a moment-to-moment basis, or a tweet-to-tweet basis for that matter. History is no longer simply what happened five years ago or five months ago. It’s what happened earlier today — five hours, five minutes or five seconds ago.

If your organization doesn’t have more ticks on its timeline in the last five years than it had in the first 100 years, it’s in serious trouble. Organizations today need to find ways to capture and disseminate their history in real time. But how do you know if you are capturing and disseminating the right kind of content?

A story from 50 years ago is valuable, but one from five days ago can be precious as well. If you can share timely stories in the right way, it increases your authenticity and allows you to craft content that truly resonates.

Our work with Lockheed Martin represents a perfect example of how we not only can document history in real time but also deploy content in extraordinarily timely and strategic ways. We were approached by Lockheed Martin the year before its 100th anniversary to build a story bank of narratives to support its new brand positioning that featured the tagline, “100 Years of Accelerating Tomorrow.”

This is a screenshot of Lockheed Martin's website showing their 100 greatest moments, which they added as an interactive content resource to the site.
Lockheed Martin’s 100 greatest moments were compiled in a Story Bank™, an interactive content resource.

Given Lockheed’s countless contributions to aeronautics, civil defense and space exploration over the past century, we could have easily ignored what it was working on at the moment and still created an impressive heritage management project. But in applying our methodology Start with the Future and Work Back™, we focused on the present and future as much as the past.

As pictures of Mars pinged their way back to Earth, readers could peruse stories documenting Lockheed’s early contributions to the exploration of the Red Planet. Interested in the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis? We had stories ready to go about surveillance planes and the U-2 “Dragon Lady.” We curated an array of stories about Lockheed innovations, some of which were still in development. We profiled the company’s newest fighter, the F-35B; its cutting-edge, energy-efficient Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC); and its Infantry Immersion trainers, which re-create the rigors of war in virtual battlefields.

We even profiled Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson, the engineer who ran Lockheed’s top-secret Skunk Works division. The profile was designed to speak to young engineers and show them that Lockheed Martin had a long track record of embracing engineers who wanted to break barriers and create new technologies.

Because the storytelling was relevant, when Lockheed started unveiling the stories on its website throughout the anniversary year, audiences latched on. The stories were pushed deeper into the public’s consciousness through social media.

So when thinking about which stories to preserve and share, don’t just think about the past. Think about which stories will help you achieve your future goals. Lockheed was able to amplify its centennial celebrations by helping audiences realize its tremendous contributions of the past, and continuing to generate a sense of excitement for what was yet to come.

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