Ah…the power of storytelling. Every company has a story. No, not the, “you’ll never believe what happened at the Christmas party…” kind of story (although most have a few of those), I’m talking about one of those ah-hah stories that becomes a legend and lives through the various generations of employees. Perhaps there is a story about how the company came to be named “Ikea”, or “Lululemon” (that’s a good story), or how it accidentally invented PostIt Notes through a failed experiment. In the end, the stories are there, but what is often lacking is the art of capturing, crafting, and breathing life and longevity into the stories to serve a higher purpose.
Seriously, higher purpose? Are you kidding me? No – ok, maybe that sound a bit pious, what I mean is a core purpose. What stories do for companies, memories do for human beings. They give a sense of history: “this is where I came from and what I’ve evolved from,” and they give relevance: “this is what I stand for and what is important to me,” and they give a sense of identity: “this is who I am”.
The core purpose is brand, plan and simple. The brand, acting as a foundation from which we extract values, vision, mission, objectives, strategy, identity, messaging, policy, and so much more, is so perfectly represented in our corporate stories.
When a company tells me, “these are our values” I’m often skeptical. It’s like being a comedian and saying, “hey look, I’m really funny”, or an investment advisor saying, “no really, I’m good with money.” Prove it. Show it to me. Walk the talk. Stating values is one thing, and it’s important to do that, but living them, demonstrating them, enacting them…well, that’s a whole different thing.
The gap between “promise” (values) and “delivery” (demonstrating values) is a deep one. Fall in and you lose credibility with your key stakeholders.
Consider the power of storytelling as a means to capture your history, your relevance, and your identity and then craft it for your audience so it resonates, builds trust, establishes credibility, and hopefully a long-lasting relationship.