What is Your Corporate Story?

Image courtesy of ButterflyPromQueen at DeviantArt.comI’ve been doing a LOT of work lately on the “how-to’s” of creating better customer experiences. Well, I really shouldn’t say “lately” as it has been a part of my work for more than a decade.

What has struck me afresh though is the notion of context. Customers have experiences in a context of some sort and that context typically is derived from expectations which are majorly influenced by story. Your story.

Which got me thinking…

The idea of a “corporate story” applies to ANY group. It applies to the company from which you receive a paycheck. It applies to the group within that company where you do your daily labor. It applies to churches. It applies to teams. It even applies to families!

Far too often though we allow those stories to be created by circumstances.

  • “Oh you guys are that company that acquired so and so.”
  • “Oh yeah, that’s that church that does the big Easter drama.”
  • “Your group is the one that did the cool power point at last years annual meeting.”
  • “You guys live over by the school right? Friends with the Jones?”

Let me suggest a couple of reasons why you ought to be intentional about creating your corporate story:

  • If you let others create your story you allow them to define you.
  • Because the world LOVES story, if you don’t have one, one WILL be created for you.
  • Circumstances will often act as an introduction to your story. It is up to you to be sure there are chapters to follow.
  • Creating your story helps you define your place in your industry, your company or your community and serves as a filter for circumstance.

By way of experiment let me suggest four NFL teams. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see each name:

  • Denver Broncos
  • New York Giants
  • Oakland Raiders
  • Dallas Cowboys

Now, unless you’re a fan of one of those teams or a storied NFL aficionado  you probably thought something like:

Broncos: John Elway, the team that got Manning, the team that traded Tebow” Circustances
Giants: Won the Super Bowl, Manning’s brother” Circumstances
Raiders: Man I hate those guys, bad boys of the NFL, use to be good, now just thugs” and THAT is a carefully crafted story. A mythos that Al Davis built around his team for years.
Cowboys: America’s team, Romo, Super Bowl, Big BIG screen” Circumstances in there for sure but this is another “storied franchise” we think of them as perennial winners.

Let me ask you this. Who was more recently in a Super Bowl, the Cowboys or the Raiders? Funny, we tend to think of the Cowboys, America’s team (and I am NOT a Cowboy’s fan) as being the one who had to be there more recently right? Nope, the Raiders played in the big game in 2003. The last time the Cowboys were there was 1996.  But their stories tend to make us believe otherwise!!

There is an interesting philosophical exercise that is right in the ballpark of what we’re talking about. The prof asks the student: “Who are you?” The student answers, “Curtis Fletcher”.  The prof replies, “No, that is your name. Who are you?”  The student tries again, “I’m the guy sitting in this seat”. The prof replies, “No, that is your location. Who are you?” Fletch takes another go, “The guy getting frustrated by these questions who’d really rather be outside drinking a beer?” The prof, “Nope. That is your current circumstance. Who are you?”

The exercise typically creates frustration for the students. If you’ve ever seen it done you understand that the frustration comes because the students answer with descriptors and circumstances rather than story.

Later this week I’m going to talk about the elements that make up a good corporate story but for now let me ask you this:

If you were allowed a max of two paragraphs how would you tell YOUR story? The story of your company, your team, your church, your family?

9 responses to “What is Your Corporate Story?

  1. Check out the Thomas Nelson story. As a company, we have a long history, since we were founded in 1798. We have used various aspects of our story in our marketing.

    http://michaelhyatt.com/chapter-1-our-history.html

  2. The company my husband works for has a terrific corporate story. Their former CEO (he died unexpectedly 2 years ago) had the philosophy of “Managing by Storying Around.” He even wrote several books that told stories about employees, customers, etc. who were living examples of how to run a successful business. His brother runs the company now, and the philosophy continues. Their approach works. They’ve been a successful, privately owned business for over 100 years with record sales years even in economic downturns. Very unique approach that works quite well. Oh yeah, their company motto is “God. Family. Work. In that order.” Great place!

  3. We are just a husband and wife who sell handmade iPad cases but I have been on a quest to write our story for a couple months now. I am very glad I came across this post and blog. It was very helpful.

    • Excellent, and thanks!

      You’re never too small to have a story. Imagine the power it might have decades from now if your 2 person company were to grow into something more than you dreamed? Let me know if there is anyway I can help you create a great story.
      Curtis

  4. Thanks for the invitation. Your three post on the subject give me the outline I have been looking for so I should be able to flush it out from there. Do you have any posts or advice on writing a good tagline? That is a true challenge for me.

    • Taglines are about the toughest bit. I like to lean toward thinking in terms of results for the customer rather than something descriptive of the company but if you can pull of both then I think that conveys the notion that your very nature is to solve the customers need.

      • That is actually pretty sage advice, and would be easier for me because I have an incredibly hard time at talking myself up whether it be personally or as a buisness. It would be much easier for me to talk about benefits to a person than how great we are. Thanks.

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