August 13, 2015 – my Mississippi Business Journal column this week
The critical problem facing businesses today is communication. Using the story of your business is an excellent way to help solve the problem. Used properly and creatively, it will increase sales, motivate employees and improve your company’s image.
So what is story anyway? It seems there are many definitions and so-called ingredients. Aristotle said that a story has a beginning, a middle and an end. In his book Poetics he also said that the beginning is not necessarily the first event in a story. There should be an emotionally engaging event to begin the story. Today’s fiction writers are told that a good story should be about a likeable character facing an increasingly difficult series of setbacks who overcomes adversity and is changed in the end. Using those as backdrop thoughts let’s examine the possible elements of your business story.
Your story should include at a minimum a story about a character. Most likely it will be the founder of the company. Although you probably want only positive information out in public about your company, people love stories about people who have overcome adversity. So don’t be afraid to tell about some negative things that happened, whether they be mistaken decisions, family feuds or even bankruptcy.
Your character will be in the company of some well-known characters who have overcome adversity. For example, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and investor/panelist on Shark Tank, once worked as a short-order cook and a server in an upscale restaurant. He was deemed incompetent at both jobs because he could not decide if the food was done unless he tasted it first and at the high class restaurant he could never open wine bottles without getting cork in the wine. His net worth today is said to be over $2.5 billion. Harland David Sanders, aka “Colonel Sanders,” at age 65 had his restaurant go bankrupt when the state rerouted a major highway. He then used his first social security check, which was all the money he had, to start up Kentucky Fried Chicken. Walt Disney’s first animation studio went bankrupt and he was once fired from a newspaper job because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” That list goes on and on.
Your company story should also include the history of the company. Restaurants, in particular, that have been around for a long time have great stories. Viewing the history section of Mary Mahoney’s Restaurant in Biloxi (www.marymahoneys.com)or that of Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville (www.doeseatplace.com) makes one want to dine there just to check out the stories behind these famous restaurants. Check out the Community Bank story at http://www.communitybank.net/story. Another good example of the use of story can be found on the “About” section of the Mississippi Gift Company website (http://www.themississippigiftcompany.com).
Another element of a business story is the future. The story should not end with just the present. A good story is one that moves people to action. Invite your readers to become part of the future by patronizing your business.
Although the company website is certainly a great place to tell your story, it is not the only way. The below list offers several more ways that you can share your story.
1. Newspaper article – Stories written by reporters and that appear in newspapers provide an excellent way to showcase the story of your company. Newspaper articles also convey credibility because a third party has told the story.
2. Newspaper ad – Another way is to take out an advertisement in a newspaper to tell your story. The larger the ad and the more photos and images it contains, the better.
3. Magazine article – In today’s market there are more and more profile-type magazines that feature companies and individuals.
4. Twitter – One way to use Twitter to tell your story is to post a daily “tweet” that tells about something that happened on this day in your company’s history. At the end of the year you would have enough to publish an almanac.
5. Blog – Blogs offer more space that Twitter to publish items. Experts say that when using blogs there should be regular posts.
6. Facebook – More businesses are using Facebook instead of the company website to connect with their customers, and more customers are going to the business’s Facebook page to find out if the business is open, if there are any specials and to find the location/directions of the business.
7. Speeches – Face-to-audience communication is still a powerful way to share your company’s story. Civic clubs are often looking for guest speakers. Tell your story without making it a sales pitch. See above for ingredients of a good story.
8. Employees – Do your employees know your company’s story? They should because they will be telling others the story.
9. YouTube – This is an easy and effective way to tell your story. It can be linked on your website, Twitter post, Facebook page, etc. or it can be a standalone place on the Internet. You can also embed your YouTube story on your website.
Whichever method you use, consider telling your story. You will be glad you did.
» Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he’s on