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The 5 Most Valuable Corporate History Materials to Use for Research

October 29, 2013 • Sara Eagin

This is a photograph of various history materials from a corporate archive laid out on a floor.
Gather as many materials as you can to give yourself the most variety possible for interesting content. Photo by Austin Radcliffe.

From your corporate website and social media to collateral and presentations, there are endless opportunities to highlight your corporate history. But actually undertaking the research is a daunting task for many. While everyone on your team might have a general understanding of your company’s history, finding the actual information can be a difficult, time-consuming task. Here are a few suggestions for places to start.

Top materials to find when looking for information about your company’s history:

  • Annual Reports – An annual report documents the financial details of a publicly held company, lists the directors and administrators, and succinctly summarizes the highlights of the past year and strategic focus for the coming year. These reports often include photographs from events throughout the year or even just of the current office environment. They also include the current company logo. If your company’s logo has changed over time, old annual reports may be the fastest way to gather these variations. Referencing annual reports, especially from turning-point years, is a great first step toward compiling information about your history.
  • Newsletters – Newsletters, both internal and external, offer a snapshot in time of the company. While it’s not critical to find every newsletter ever printed, finding even just a small batch of them can provide useful information for you to build upon.
  • Past Historical Summaries – Most corporate websites have an “about us” section. Other companies have printed materials that summarize their history. Does someone in communications or PR have a written corporate history from a past anniversary or a printed piece they distributed? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and recreate items that someone else has taken the time to pull together. Even a corporate timeline or brochure from 15 years ago can be used as a starting point. Repurpose old content and update it with the latest events and turning points in the company’s history.
  • Press Releases – Did your company launch a new product five years ago, or has management/ownership changed in recent years? Press releases highlight major turning points for a company and serve as useful time capsules. They also provide you with the proper language and positioning to describe events and products of previous years.
  • Event Materials – Photographs of major events are easier to find than those of day-to-day activities. The gala for your last anniversary, a product launch several years ago and a recent staff holiday party were probably all documented by someone. Start by searching your event files or checking with the person or department responsible for the event. Photos of events from recent years may appear on social media sites, making them even easier to find. These contemporary events are as much a part of your history as the events of 30 years ago.

Together, any and all of these materials can give you a foundation for your project. Use what you can gather as a starting point and then ask colleagues for additional information. The more specific you can be about the information you need, the easier it will be for others to assist you. Asking marketing or communications for “information about our history” is going to take a lot longer than asking for “the annual reports from 1993 through ’98.”

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