9 Questions to Ask Before You Invest a Penny in a Business History Project

You’ll find lots of providers in the business history field, from self-styled “factories” to retired professors. How can you select the right one for your unique requirements and get the best marketing value for your investment? As you evaluate, ask these important questions, which reflect CorporateHistory.net’s 13 years in the field:

1. “Do your strengths fit our needs?” Some suppliers have academic roots. That’s great if you want a PhD-style slant. Others specialize in archiving and event planning. But you may not need or want those services, especially on a large scale. When a vendor’s strengths match your desired outcome, the entire process goes more smoothly. CorporateHistory.net’s style: accurate, narrative, accessible.

2. “Does your work follow a pre-determined format?” Your history is unique. It deserves unique treatment. Tip: Look at a publisher’s titles and layouts. Using a cookie-cutter template and virtually the same title for each project makes the vendor’s job easier, but it shortchanges you. CorporateHistory.net’s approach: Each product we develop—be it a book, video, podcast, or anniversary Web site—is designed for that client alone.

3. “Who will research and write our story?” Don’t settle for a grad student, junior staffer, or (worst of all) a low-bidding author found by trolling the Internet. You need a writer who knows corporate communications and the business world—an expert who will ask the right questions, connect the insights, and shape the pieces into a readable whole. Great histories come from a single writer, not a committee. CorporateHistory.net does not bid out writing—no rookie authors hastily sourced on the Web. Your author is an experienced pro.

4. “How do you handle interviews?” At some firms, students and interns do the interviews piecemeal. The results are cobbled together back at the home office. Beware: some suppliers even use generic questionnaires. Insist on in-depth oral history sessions — they make the difference in capturing your company’s personality and values. CorporateHistory.net uses use no interns; the author conducts the oral history interviews.

5. “Can you unbundle your services?” Most suppliers offer one-stop shopping. Many insist on it. But maybe you have the expertise to handle some parts of your project in-house or through an agency already on retainer. The economics are clear: when the publisher is flexible, as CorporateHistory.net is, you save money.

6. “Will your top people stay directly involved?” Typically you’ll talk and meet with company principals at the start. But you may not see them again. Be sure you can count on open lines of communication at every step. Clients attest to CorporateHistory.net’s high-level involvement.

7. “Can we call CEOs at the companies you’ve dealt with?” You’re making a sizable investment. A good supplier will encourage due diligence. CorporateHistory.net gladly supplies references.

8. “Do we need to have everything perfectly in order?” It helps, but a professional corporate history company knows how to work with what you have. When a company tells you that you can’t move forward without professionally archived materials, that may be true for them but not for others. No matter if you present us with formal archives or a mishmash of boxes, CorporateHistory.net knows how to hit the ground running. We’re proud of what a client once told us: “CorporateHistory.net helped us shape a vague idea of what we wanted into something really special that we can be proud to share.”

9. “Have we explored all the possibilities?” An effective corporate history should support your overall marketing strategy. What messages do you want to convey? CorporateHistory.net brainstorms the possibilities with you up front, laying the groundwork to turn your history into an ongoing resource.