"Businesses large and small succeed because of the human element," reports Wes Skillings, a Pennsylvania copywriter who includes regional companies among his clients. "Behind every acquisition, merger and business triumph there are people who make those decisions and there are stories to tell."
There are, as it turns out, specialists in compiling and writing business histories, and the new rule is that they should be readable, interlaced with anecdotal material that tells the human story of the business.
The Library of Congress, a repository of seemingly infinite information about American companies, including those active and extinct, concedes in its Business Reference Services that those who are researching for corporate histories "have a fair bit of detective work to do."
Traditionally corporate histories are done internally, even if just to fill the "About Us" page on their websites. Founding families of successful business that span generations often tell their business history as a family story, though many fail to archive periods of transition and growth, especially personal accounts of participants. Others file away newspaper and magazine clippings from previous decades as the only recorded milestones.
Invaluable information can be derived from oral histories, but too often that board president who reigned for decades or the CEO who presided during significant times are retired, memory-impaired of even deceased before someone realizes that avenue of research has been lost forever.
"Long-term executives and employees who have heard the stories from their predecessors are often the only source you have left to fill in some of the blanks," noted Skillings, "but information passed on multiple times, like that party game where a sentence or observation is passed down the line, may be somewhat distorted."
It didn't take long for specialists in writing corporate histories emerged, because businesses did such a poor job of telling their stories. Which history book is more compelling? One requiring you to wade through names, dates and statistics or the those that humanize the topic, whether it's the American Civil War or FedEx? Jack El-Hai, who wrote the history of the latter, told Writer's Digest that he became a business historian because, "I saw a lot of opportunity and badly done company histories, looking and reading like text books."
Skillings believes that your corporate history may become a tremendous marketing tool, because it can say a lot about what your strengths are today. That means humanizing the stories behind your company's challenges and successes over successive generations with the accuracy of a historian.
Wes Skillings is a Pennsylvania-based copywriter whose recent emergence into this field brings a freshness and vitality that will make the words on your website, newsletter, direct mail marketing or news release reach out and grab the customer base you are seeking.
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SOURCE Wes Skillings