In this month’s excerpt of CEO Bruce Weindruch’s book, Start with the Future and Work Back, we take a look at how a story bank—a repository of stories that can be used for varying business purposes—can be deployed as part of a larger content bank that includes a variety of other multimedia.

“It was our turn toward touchstone writing that allowed us to create what we refer to as story banks, catalogs of image-rich stories that allow our clients to highlight key moments, people and achievements from their past.

The typical structure of a story bank today looks much like what you’d find if you log on to Netflix. It has its own landing page, but from there visitors can click on different sections built around specific themes.

Netflix’s library of movies is broken up into genres—romantic comedies, documentaries, sci-fi and so on. Click on one of those genres and you’ll find an image and a short description of each movie choice. One or two more clicks and you’re watching your movie.

Our story banks employ a similar template. They’re intuitive, based in some way on the subject trees we use to build archives. Click on a tab that reads “culture” and you’ll get a cluster of stories about an organization’s culture. Click on the “people” tab, and you’ll get stories about leaders or individuals who played a key role in the company’s development. And so on.

One of the first story banks we created was for American Century Investments in 2002. American Century was in a tremendous growth mode at that time—shifting from a found¬er-driven to a management-driven culture—and it needed a way to communicate the company’s vision and history to the massive number of new employees and shareholders that were coming aboard.

This was an internal-facing story bank, meaning that it was created for people within the company to read and use as they saw fit. It was divided into simple thematic sections: products, teamwork, growth, values and so on. Click on the values section and you’d get a short engaging story about how the company developed one of its key technologies.

One of the openings, for instance, read like this:

While attending a mutual fund conference with his wife, [founder] James Stowers had more on his mind than attending seminars. Late in the evening, Stowers sat in his hotel room thinking about the mountains of programming that he needed to start writing. Then the idea struck. Afraid to wake his wife and turn on the light, he took his books and headed into the bathroom. There, in a burst of inspiration, he spent the entire night in his hotel bathroom programming code for a breakthrough computer system. . . .

The best thing about a story bank is that it can be used in different ways by everyone in an organization. A new employee can read that James Stowers story and walk away with a better sense of his company’s founder. A communication team can adapt it for a presentation or meeting. And a marketing team can use it as the inspiration to launch a new advertising push.

As a matter of fact, American Century’s ad team did just that, using our stories to create a series of ads built around striking photographs of everyday objects that were tied to the company’s history.

The one that was inspired by the Stowers story offered a large black-and-white photograph of a bathtub, with opening text that read: “In the proud tradition of inventors in garages and attics, we offer a bathtub.”

It went on to take small pieces of that story and link up its founder to the cult of innovators—like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos—that were all in vogue at that time.

Story banks, it should be noted, aren’t always internally facing. Should a client want to build an external-facing story bank, we can do that as well. We simply build a website, like we did for Edelman Financial Services or Lockheed Martin, that presents these stories in stylized ways, almost like a digital magazine, for the general public.

Link those stories up to a company’s social media page and you can start to drive traffic, which can lead to anything from media attention to increased business or a new partnership.”

For a free excerpt of Bruce Weindruch’s book, click here.

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