3 Ways to Use Oral Histories in Your Company History

From CorporateHistory.net's 50th anniversary book for Northwest Community Hospital

Employees are your best marketers. They’re also your best storytellers. Voices convey the real culture of your workplace. Whether we’re doing a book, an interactive timeline, or a history Web site, we talk with people extensively. Often we’ll do a hundred hours’ worth of oral and video histories. Best practices:

TIP 1: Include voices from all levels. Talk with everybody who makes your organization run. For example, our Northwest Community Hospital history book (NCH contains sidebars called NCH Memories. Here we featured not just the usual nurses and docs, but also people like the facilities director, head of food services, and the medical librarian. NCH offers animal-assisted therapy – if only the dog had been willing to talk! We even tracked down the first baby born at the hospital, who (by good luck) had become the mother of a doctor-to-be.

TIP 2: Gather meaningful artifacts and display them digitally (including podcasts). A current day nurse started at NCH as a candy striper. She’d kept everything: her badge, her diploma, even her uniform, which we used as a background to her profile.

TIP 3: Create clusters of voices around key events. In our history of the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Commission (PARC), for example, we quoted a cross-section of participants who looked back on the base reuse process some 15 years after the first closure announcement was made. It’s a special section that stands alone and tells the story all on its own.

Bottom line: Get your people talking and mix the stories into the history of your organization and your brand. That’s what we do at CorporateHistory.net every day.