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Insights

Revolutionizing Authenticity

February 22, 2019 • History Factory

Throughout our 40th anniversary year, we will be exploring various topics related to History Factory’s work, with excerpts from founder Bruce Weindruch’s book, Start with the Future and Work Back: A Heritage Management Manifesto. This month, we will take a close look at the importance of authenticity.

“In today’s business environment, it’s all about speed and usability. Organizations simply don’t have the luxury of time anymore, of being able to slowly unveil a new product or insert themselves into the pressing topic of the moment.

They need to have reservoirs of curated content at their disposal to ensure their company remains an important voice in the conversation.

Silence simply isn’t an option anymore. If you’re not constantly communicating your story and values, you’re on the road to becoming irrelevant.

But I would also argue that organizations need to capture and disseminate the right kind of content in order for it to be of any value.

Like it or not, our communications channels have gone completely democratic. Once a piece of content — whether it’s sales figures, a story or an advertising push — finds its way into the ether, there’s simply no controlling where it goes and how it will be interpreted.

It can go anywhere, including places you never expected it to go. And as it travels along, it’ll be accepted or rejected by just about everyone along the way.

For leaders steeped in the command-and-control ways of old, this can be a daunting proposition. But for organizations willing to take the time and expense to curate and disseminate authentic content on a continual basis, this can be an extraordinary opportunity.

As one of my mentors, the legendary adman Arthur Einstein, has drummed into me: People are in search of the real. Given a chance to choose between something authentic and something manufactured, they’ll choose the honest thing every time

What’s more authentic, from an organizational perspective, than your own history? A story from 50 years ago is valuable, but one from five days ago can be precious as well. It’s real. It happened. It’s verifiable. And most important of all, it’s uniquely yours.

Tell timely stories about your organization in the right ways and you can craft content that truly resonates. It can permeate in ways that were simply impossible for the old command-and-control system to ever match.

An Unexpected Flight Path: Lockheed Martin Finds Its Voice

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 in 2011, one year before its 100th anniversary, to build a story bank of 100 narratives highlighting the company’s many contributions to aeronautics, civil defense and space exploration.

We had so much content from the distant past that we could have easily ignored what Lockheed was working on at the moment and still created a jaw-dropping corporate heritage project. But we didn’t. We focused on the present as much as we did the past.

We wrote 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.

Those stories were carefully unveiled on a public-facing website throughout the anniversary year, many of them tapping into the water-cooler discussions of the hour.

As more 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.’ Talk of cyber security on Page One? Go read about Lockheed’s crime-fighting NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Center.

Our stories were so relevant that all Lockheed needed to do was post them, and mainstream and social media outlets picked them up. Everyone latched on to the stories and pushed them deeper into the public’s consciousness.

[…]

Why? Because we engineered those stories to be relevant — to be interesting and timely enough that people would pass them along, around their dinner tables and on social media.

The stories didn’t parrot the discussion of the hour; they added context to them, which helped readers across the globe not only realize Lockheed’s tremendous contributions but generate a sense of excitement for what was yet to come.”

To continue reading, purchase Bruce’s book.

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