Carolyn McMaster | July 22, 2014
What makes some company stories great, while others fall flat?
Successful company stories—those that turn customers into brand advocates, attract partners and capture media attention, among other benefits—contain a handful of key ingredients woven into a tight narrative: inspiration, vision, accomplishments, claims to fame and challenges.
That list may sound like a no-brainer, but in our work helping companies tell their story and clarify their messages, we’ve found people often have trouble coming up with the goods. It’s not because they don’t exist; it’s because people don’t dig deep enough.
Here are some common first responses to the five essential story elements, and help in coming up with the real answers.
Inspiration: “Well, it really was more of a slow-growth realization” or “The opportunity just presented itself.” To find the initial spark, think about the problem you were trying to solve in forming your venture. What motivated you to actually do something?
Vision: “We want to be bigger” and “We want to help as many people as we can” are common statements. Go deeper and be more specific. What is next for the business? Where will you be in five years? What keeps people in your organization coming to work every day (besides a paycheck)?
Accomplishments and claims to fame: “We still have a lot of work to do” or “We don’t want to seem like we’re bragging.” If you don’t cite your achievements, no one will know how great you are. (And if others bestowed the honors, it isn’t bragging.)
Challenges: “I don’t want to say anything about problems we’ve had.” We’re all human. If you only present a sunny picture, you won’t be believable. And you won’t show how creative or strong you were in overcoming obstacles to building the business. Challenges conquered are successes, not failures.
A strong story is an essential aspect of communicating your brand, because your brand is much more than your products and services—and that’s particularly true for mission-driven enterprises and sustainability-focused companies. We describe and model all these elements in our new infographic storytelling map, 5 Essential Elements of a Great Company Story.