When Microsoft marked its 25th anniversary in 2000, media outlets around the world remarked upon the scale of the company’s celebration: a raucous gathering of 18,000 employees at Seattle’s Safeco baseball field (now named T-Mobile Park), which was shared via closed-circuit broadcast with more than 70 of its international offices.
While your own enterprise may not be in a position to host a colossal party, you may want to look toward another smaller, and more lasting, gesture with which Microsoft trumpeted its silver milestone. It published a book, Inside Out: Microsoft — In Our Own Words, in which more than 1,000 employees narrated the ascent of the home-computing trailblazer.
In his introduction, company co-founder Bill Gates shared multiple reasons to publish Inside Out. For 21 years, we at ECHO Storytelling Agency have helped to commemorate a great many company histories, and we’ve consistently found that what so pleased Gates about his book works equally well for our clients — whether they employ tens of thousands around the globe or merely dozens under one roof.
Here are five reasons your company needs a book to help celebrate your anniversary.
Everybody is a Star
We typically devote 18 to 24 months to producing a book. This allows us the time to interview as many employees, as well as anyone else who has played a significant role in a company’s success, as needed. It’s time well spent: the very action of contributing to a book — sharing anecdotes, sourcing photos and documents, brainstorming content possibilities — strengthens your employees’ engagement with you, the employer, in both the short and long term, and confirms the value of their work. As Forbes and many other business publications have reported, there are few better ways to strengthen employee happiness and retention than by making them feel engaged with a company’s overarching goals. And there is no more lasting a way to say thank you than by immortalizing their contributions on the printed page.
People Forget; Books Don’t
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change,” and this is certainly true of work in the 21st century. No matter how solid a company’s culture, leaders and their employees inevitably retire or depart for other opportunities, and too often with them go their memories and their unique perspectives. Many businesses now keep a rolling record of their day-to-day activities on a blog, but as ECHO story director John Burns has pointed out, digital archives are defined by their impermanence, easily obliterated by one second of carelessness or the capricious nature of digital ownership. A book — tactile, beautiful, analogue — is a survivor. Captured between hard covers, your company’s story becomes permanent in a way that a webpage likely will never be able to safeguard.
You’ve Got This — Literally
Books wield another advantage over their online equivalents. By way of comparison, think about why the vinyl record has experienced an unprecedented revival in recent years, more than three decades after the compact disc (and, subsequently, downloading and streaming) supposedly rendered it obsolete. Millions of consumers — those who experienced vinyl during its original reign and those not yet born when it first faded — recognized a fundamental lack in how they were listening to music. Vinyl requires that you fully engage with music; a record is, quite simply, a piece of art: thoughtfully designed, the result of a painstaking manufacturing process, made for being held and perhaps displayed. Similarly, a physical book offers readers a visceral experience that shames all other formats. Its weight, the feel of paper between fingers, the wonderful surprise of turning a page onto an oversized photo, the sheer sense of ownership it imparts — an ebook can’t compete. (It should be noted that Microsoft, one of the foremost architects of our current digital reality, gave a printed copy of Inside Out to every employee.)
When ECHO produced a commemorative 25th-anniversary book for JOEY Restaurant Group, it yielded a benefit no one foresaw. JOEY’s VP Marketing reported back to us that the book had helped the growing chain secure coveted real estate locations against formidable competition. Prospective landlords, presented with the book, viewed it as proof of the company’s credibility, aesthetic excellence, and seriousness of intent. In effect, it proved itself to be a business card, a résumé, and an audition reel rolled into one. We’ve been delighted to learn that various ECHO books have also been instrumental in helping companies attract top talent, seal negotiations with clients, prepare investors for an IPO, attract franchisees, maintain company culture during rapid expansion, and much more.
If that reference to the 18,000 employees gathered for Microsoft’s 25th Anniversary celebration made you twitch, you aren’t alone. In our Covid-19 reality, crowds of any significant size are not safe, and it may be a long time before they are again the norm. When so much of our work is being conducted online, and when meetings and celebrations are not happening in person, the value of a collection of shared stories that engages employees or clients comes even more clearly into focus. In times of crisis, great business leaders double down on their company values and find the best ways to communicate with their teams. An expertly crafted story is a valuable tool, and one that we can sharpen.
Referencing Bill Gates one last time, he offered this jewel-like summary of why a company’s anniversary book is a good idea: “Not only is nostalgia fun, but it’s important to be reminded from time to time that anything is possible.” We couldn’t put it better ourselves.
We hope you find the best way to celebrate your company anniversary or milestone! We always welcome you to give us a call at 1-877-777-ECHO (3426) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to chat with you about how we might help you celebrate like Bill Gates.