Download free articles about corporate histories:

10 Commandments of “About Us” Pages
"About Us" pages - Before and After

7 Reasons to Use History in Your Marketing

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

And visit the blog for more ideas on corporate storytelling and business anniversaries.

Some of us believe we need to do a corporate history. Others see it as nice, but not necessary. What's the value?

Documenting history is a little like having children — if you did it strictly for the bottom line, you'd be doing it for the wrong reason. Nonetheless, company histories and corporate storytelling do provide tangible value.

 Corporate histories help you do all these things:

Corporate histories can be particularly useful during tough economic times. Customers want assurance that your organization has a strong track record and will be there for them. Employees want that assurance, too. If your firm has lasted a respectable amount of time, no doubt you have survived downturns and emerged stronger. The trick is to tap into that institutional knowledge and share it

A good history leaves a record of how you succeeded and what mattered to you — a record that may not exist otherwise.

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How do we get started on a corporate history project?

Discuss the project. Think through why you want to do a corporate history, when you need it, and who your audiences will be. This will help determine format and scope.

A good first step may be to add a special history section to your website or to enhance what's already there. It might include a brief overview, some photos, perhaps a timeline. This helps organize your material and gets the history juices flowing.

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What's the best time to do a corporate history?

To get the most mileage from a written or visual corporate history, most companies link them to a major anniversary or a change in leadership. A corporate history project can also help launch a corporate citizenship initiative, fund-raising drive, new product rollout, or a financial turnaround. Although it can be chaotic, a period of growth and change is also a great time for a corporate history — it can help you spread your corporate culture as new people come on board.

But don't leash yourself to a particular event. For some businesses, especially those with aging founders, time may be of the essence.

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Does our corporate history project have to be a book?

No. While the printed word still says "history" better than any other medium, the type of media that will work best for your project depends on your goals, budget, and capabilities. If you do decide on a print piece, you may choose a full-fledged book or more of an illustrated booklet.

Web timelines, videos, podcasts, and other formats can serve as centerpieces of a public relations and advertising campaign. Other good possibilities include historical trade exhibits and lobby displays.

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Will a traditional business book publisher be interested in our story?

Possibly — and if you choose to pursue that path, might be able to help.

However, if you pursue a standard publishing path, you will have no control over whether a trade publisher wants your history or when it will be published. Generally it makes the most sense for businesses to commission a privately printed work.

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What can I say to people within our company who aren’t sold on the idea of a corporate history project?

Some people are uncomfortable with the word "history." Try substituting the word "knowledge" or "reputation" instead. Or try talking about your company’s history as a way to measure your achievements—something especially difficult during our information age, when so much of our work isn’t tangible.

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Where does the writer begin?

First the client and publisher decide on the project's direction and core messages. Then research begins. While each organization's source materials are different, they usually break down into these categories:

Your project may also call for research at historical societies, libraries, and trade organizations. Family businesses may want to add a genealogical aspect.

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I'm in a family business. Any special considerations for us?

Yes. Please read Marian Calabro's article, "Profiting from the Past: Company Histories for Family Businesses," on

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How long does a corporate history project take?

If history could be organized and produced overnight, it wouldn't be history. But if you plan well at the start, the project usually moves along smoothly and faster than you may think. There are two things to keep in mind:

  1. Working well in advance of your desired end date will save time and money.
  2. Arriving at an approved outline, then sticking to it, will likewise expedite the process.

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