11 Aug Finding Your Company’s Story
Years ago, I took a series of creative writing classes at Duke University that focused on finding the story in something — identifying a unique tale that would capture people’s interest. Ideally, it would involve not only an interesting plot or characters, but say something that nobody else had ever said before.
Every organization has its own story. Most of them actually have many stories. Some revolve around the building of the corporate brand. Others may have to do with a particular product launch. And there are undoubtedly oodles of stories surrounding organizational cultures, sales initiatives, and more.
The problem lies in finding these stories. That’s not easy to do, especially today when so many organizations are fighting for pieces of the same pie. Everyone wants to position themselves well in the worlds of cloud, data center management, network modernization, enterprise software, and more. These are hot markets, and companies must play in them. But so many companies diving into these areas makes it harder and harder for organizations to differentiate themselves and tell their unique stories.
There’s so much noise out there today – in traditional and social media — that being able to set your organization apart from the competition is more critical than ever before. Sure, everybody develops mission statements and key messages. But all too often those are reflective of what everyone else is already saying. Many of them are just adding to the noise — and that’s just boring.
Start telling your own story by asking the following questions:
Why was my company/brand/product created? Once upon a time, someone saw a need, or had a brilliant idea. How did that seed come about? What spurred that creativity? Why did the idea resonate so much? The core of uniqueness can be found in the answers to these questions.
How has that idea evolved? A company or product formed in the 90’s or early 2000’s may be completely different from the company it is today. Or, it may still hold onto aspects of what it was back then, though those aspects will have evolved. How did it get here? Why has it changed? What were the milestones that drove this change? There’s a story in that history, and it makes your company or product unique.
Why do customers need my product? As opposed to why they need a particular type of product. There are many versions of that type – but why do customers need yours? Yes, it could be because of some key features, but those are just bullet points on a checklist. It’s more likely the entire package that you have to offer. My customers need my product because it comes from a trusted source that’s been in this business for XX years. They need my product because they trust us, since we’ve proven time and again we understand their challenges. They need my product because we’ve created something revolutionary that comes at a particular need in a new way (of course, further articulating what that “new way” is would also be important!).
What are the stories behind the individuals within your organization? Every employee has his or her own tale to tell. Why are they there? What appeals to them about the work they do? Surely it’s not just the great benefits – they can get those anywhere! In short, why do they love what they do? The stories behind the individuals can be woven together to form a larger tapestry that speaks to the uniqueness of your company’s culture.
There are always little tricks one can use to find the unique story hidden in just about anything. That desk you’re sitting at? A person created that desk. That person may have had a family. That family may have many children. One of those children may have grown up to be a doctor. That doctor may be a brain surgeon who has saved many lives. One of those lives may have gone on to…
See? There’s a story in everything. It’s just a matter of looking for it.