The Kellogg Company, the International Truck & Engine Corporation, Avery Dennison (the label company) and thousands of other companies have recorded to film and video the men and women who founded their business and they have taken the time to create company histories on videos celebrating years of service to their customers and clients.
Often, the video history forms part of a wider exercise to document and preserve the company's history using oral histories, image banks, timelines and written histories. Normally, only a segment of the video documentary portion is released to the public, usually through the company website or simply by being posted to YouTube or Vimeo awaiting a serendipitous web-surfer.
Why bother with a company history on video?
Why create a company history? What is the value in rehearsing the places a business has been or in talking about its important people – as opposed to just promoting the products and services it sells?
Sure, with the daily challenges confronting every business in today's hyper-competitive economy, a company history on video can seem like an expensive distraction from the daily grind of making, selling and shipping product. And the payoff for the company history video is not cause-and-effect like an engaging trade show display or a good volume discount or loyalty rebate.
But there is a payoff for a carefully crafted business history video. And the value proposition for a corporate history lies in its ability to generate emotional goodwill and its role in celebration and reward.
Emotional engagement and goodwill
Most of us in business know that purchase decisions only masquerade as purely logical calculations based on a careful study and weighing of the competing offerings. Sure, cold logic enters into the equation but in many instances it is the emotional element of the offer that clinches the deal.
We want products that are fun or beautiful. We prefer to deal with sales people we like. We enjoy business relationships where we get to laugh. And we like to deal with companies that we understand and admire. "Fun", "prefer", "enjoy", "like", "admire" – these are all words with an emotional content and a company history video is an opportunity to build emotional content into your brand and your business.
Think Apple. Great tech products sure. But so much of our response to Apple's products lies in the history of the company – its early innovation and its near-death experience – and the history of its wild-child founder Steve Jobs.
Celebration and Reward
Creating an emotional penumbra around a company and its products it not the only benefit in documenting the business story.
Companies are seldom built without blood, sweat and tears; businesses seldom thrive without hard work, inspiration, leadership and sacrifice. It's not easy to survive your first year, your first ten years or even your first 100 years.
When a company reaches a significant milestone, it is time to mark the occasion and thank all those who have helped you get there. Those people will include the business leaders and the staff. It should also include all the suppliers, clients and customers who helped you get there.
A company history video can be the centerpiece of a business celebration, marking where the company has been, where it is and where it is headed. It's a chance to articulate its values and to capture some of that "lightning in a bottle" that so far has sparked and propelled the enterprise.
The look and feel of a great business history documentary
Sadly, the effort and money expended to create a great company history video is not always well spent. And there are a number of common mistakes:
First, while the project is to create a company history documentary, everything in it should relate to the company present and future. Only showcase people and products – and old success and past projects – if they make an important point about the company going forward.
Second, never start with those dreary old images of the company founder (usually with a long beard) sitting in his chair. Don't get me wrong – I love old images – but you want the video to be vital and dynamic. Use color, use modern images and recent footage, keep the cuts short and the mood upbeat.
Third, keep it short. By all means create a 30-minute-plus version of the company history that you give to employees and make available to clients – but only post 3 to 5 minutes on your website or as a link in a company newsletter. If you are showing the thing at a celebration or anniversary – 15 minutes tops. The goal is to leave your audience wanting more – not less!
Fourth, emphasize values and strengths over facts and figures; work out what is in the businesses' DNA and arrange the material to reflect that.[ff id=”2″]