Whether it’s your 50th or 150th anniversary as a company, you have stories to tell—of your founding, of your founder(s), of the people you’ve worked with and for, of the values you’ve cultivated, and of those memorable moments that have helped to define who you are and what you do. But just how to tell those stories to help celebrate your company anniversary or milestone may be leaving you scratching your head.
Have no fear: inspiration is at hand! We’ve worked with hundreds of companies over the past 20 years to tell company stories in books, videos, websites and online campaigns, and are pleased to share some of the examples that inspire us. We hope you find them helpful.
BOOKS CAN CELEBRATE HISTORY AND CULTURE WITH GORGEOUS PHOTOS
OK. So we may not all have as much to work with, historically, as Columbia Records. But if you’re looking for inspiration for a truly gorgeous, as well as well-told company history full of highs and lows, this may just be it. Partly to commemorate Columbia’s 125th anniversary, Princeton University history professor Sean Wilentz wrote 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story to tell the story of the label, as well as of the record industry itself. The coffee-table-sized book is rich with huge images of celebrities, recording equipment, and historical memorabilia, fascinating to anyone interested in music, Columbia, or history itself.
In a slightly different vein, Rocky Mountaineer—the the busiest privately owned passenger rail service in North America—set out to mark 25 years of providing unforgettable experiences in the Canadian Rockies with a culture book designed to capture organizational values and to help recruit and onboard the right managers and employees. Rich with gorgeous photography and quirky facts about the company’s colourful history, Unforgettable Journey: Stories from Rocky Mountaineer was delivered to every Rocky Mountaineer employee and sold in gift shops, quickly selling out as must-have souvenirs.
The insight: Books are perfect vehicles for gorgeous photographs that readers can mull over and savour.
COMMEMORATIVE WEBSITES OFFER THE DRAW OF USER STORIES
We love what the University of Calgary did online to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Their anniversary website at ucalgarycelebrates.ca is intriguing, user-friendly, and informative, offering up several narrative threads (their origin story, stories about ‘how we teach and learn’, ‘our place in the universe,’ and others) while making it crystal clear that the overarching ’50 years’ story is one of innovation–in the past and present.
The site offers an interesting take on a company timeline, as well: rather than visually representing the history as linear, the University of Calgary here shares stories from particular eras. We also love the use of a hashtag (#ucalgary50), making it easy for site developers to pull in social media stories about the anniversary. Well played.
The insight: A key benefit of celebrating a company milestone online is the possible inclusion of user stories, ties to ‘real time’ people, and a wide reach.
HISTORICAL TIMELINES GIVE VISUAL IMMEDIACY TO YOUR STORY
Swarovski offers up a technologically simple but compelling company timeline that neatly tells some incredible stories about the brand’s history (Marilyn Monroe, anyone?).
This one’s about telling a story succinctly and powerfully, and playing to each piece’s strength.
More technically ambitious, this interactive timeline produced by The Carnegie Corporation of New York tells the in-depth founder story of well-known industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
The viewer can read through the history in a linear fashion, or scroll down–and then forward and back– to take a deeper dive into any point in history by reading further, listening to audio via SoundCloud, or watching video. Nicely done.
The insight: Consider your stories first, and the visual assets you have to share, before determining the technical needs for any timeline–digital or print. Remember that you can tell a story well using simple means, too.
DIGITAL STORYTELLING CAPITALIZES ON RICH MEDIA
To extend the reach of your company history, and to make use of media (beyond writing and photos) that might help to tell your story, digital storytelling may be a consideration. It certainly was for Johnson & Johnson, who aimed for nothing less than telling the story of “how Johnson & Johnson revolutionized healthcare.”
J&J did just this beautifully, with an interactive microsite that divided history into chapters, offering up an audio soundtrack and media options for further information ranging from photo slideshows to quotes to video stories.
The insight: When you have multimedia assets to share, digital storytelling is a champion. Collect and prepare your resources well in advance, to work with solid technical folks to ensure that your users have an optimal experience.
NATIVE MAGAZINE CONTENT APPLIES EXPERTISE OF PUBLISHING PROS
To ensure that their story was told expertly and reached a large audience, Boeing took the bold step of working with The Atlantic’s Re:think custom content division to create a beautiful native content campaign called A Century in the Sky to celebrate their 100th anniversary.
The campaign, intended to highlight Boeing’s contributions to flight throughout history, included a comprehensive photo gallery, custom infographics exploring “Boeing’s effects on the diverse worlds of space exploration, international travel, and disaster relief,” an article, and a microsite to house the collection.
The insight: There are darned good people out there who can help you figure out how best to tell your story; you need not tackle it alone!
COMPANY HISTORY VIDEOS OFFER EMOTIONAL IMPACT
Founders Brewing: The Story from Founders Brewing Co. on Vimeo.
For our president, Samantha Reynolds, this video from Founders’ Brewing is “one of the best videos about a company’s founding” because of its authenticity and honesty. Founder’s Brewing: A Story centres on the founders’ early mistakes—which nearly led to the brewery shutting down altogether. But it’s precisely the founders’ honesty, and willingness to share the bad with the good that makes this story so compelling, and that makes everyone featured in this video so likeable and trustworthy.
Just for inspiration (it’s not a company video, per se), you might also think about telling your story with the help of simple messaging and illustration/animation, exemplified in this excellent video from TBrand Studio, telling to story of How Far We’ve Come, in terms of HIV/Aids.
The insight: As we always say here at ECHO Storytelling, “without emotion it’s not a story; it’s just a very long CV.” Tell stories with plenty of ups and downs.
Good luck with your company anniversary or milestone! We always welcome you to get in touch with questions or queries about how we might help.