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In a world that is barraged with content, increasing number of organisations have begun using stories to sell products and services, and to shape public perception. Despite this positive realisation, many of the stories these organisations decide to tell are often superficial or inauthentic.
The most powerful story of all – one that is compelling, authentic and true – is rooted in one’s own experience. Smart organisations and their leaders know this, and act deliberately to capture “heritage stories” – founding myths, remembered events or survival stories. They use these resources to help crystallise a sense of purpose, engage people in transformational change, and make them feel a part of something larger than themselves. For truly compelling stories, organisations should look to their own heritage, and here are five (5) examples of those who did just that.

KPMG – Instil a sense of mission and purpose

In facing a growing, increasingly disconnected global workforce, the accounting firm KPMG, launched a major employment engagement initiative that aimed to unite their workers around a common, higher purpose. They focused on its transcendent purpose (how the firm helps people) and less on transactional purpose (what it does and sells), by capturing hundreds of stories from the past and present that illustrated the impact of KPMG’s auditing and tax work in historic events. For example, the firm was part of the certification of the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela as the first president of post-Apartheid South Africa.
Dimensional – Pave the way for next generation of leaders

Founder and co-CEO of Dimensional Fund Advisors, David Booth engaged historians to help him craft an authoritative narrative that described the early decisions that put the firm’s initial development in perspective. As the firm approached its 30th anniversary, a series of forces – geographical expansion, a proliferation of new funds, a large influx of new employees, and structural changes in organisation and management – had combined to transform the enterprise’s direction. 30 years in business was the consequence of discrete decisions, many of them taken early on. This had permanently shaped the firm’s culture and values, and Booth decided that they should be the authoritative narrative, which eventually became the basis for ongoing dialogue with young leaders and new hires, and was integrated into formal orientation and training programs in the company.

Mylan – Build confidence in time of crisis
When the stock price of Mylan, the global generic drug maker, plummeted in October 2008, at the onset of a deep recession, executives there took care to remind people that Mylan had seen worse and could survive once more. They used an early survival story to inspire resilience at a moment of crisis. Founded in 1961, Mylan had been on the verge of bankruptcy twice in its first decade, before ultimately establishing a foothold in the market. Stories from that near-death experiences later became part of the company’s culture – not only teaching employees to take nothing for granted but also motivating them to overcome fresh challenges.

Motorola – Bring an authentic identity to the marketplace

In 2011, Motorola augmented its once-mighty consumer business (since bought by Google). That left its enterprise communication business, renamed Motorola Solutions, to present a different face to customers and employees so used to seeing the brand primarily as a business-to-consumer company. Executives looked to the early history of the company, which revealed a founding emphasis on public safety dating to the 1930s car radio business for municipal police and fire departments. Now, Motorola had a new story to tell about itself, one that refocused attention on its origins as a business-to-business company, and enabled it to bring an authentic identity to the marketplace.

LEGO – Reinvent a cherished brand
In the early 2000s, LEGO, children’s toy maker, realised it could no longer talk about its signature product as a system of miniature plastic bricks in a world of hyper-stimulated children accustomed to video games and other electronic toys, and their anxious, overachieving parents. Yet rather than abandon the brick or embrace yet more brand extensions, it went back to the company’s founding vision. The founder had always thought of the LEGO toys leaving his shop as being “[…] unfinished” because, he said, “each one needs the touch and imagination of a child” in order to come to life. Once unpacked, this founding story led to a powerful insight: What made LEGO enduring was not the plastic bricks themselves but what those bricks did to fire childhood imagination. By making the old new again, LEGO successfully reframed its brand and its mission – to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.

Bonus: Orchan – Orchestrate Change

The birth of Orchan was influenced by the founders’ experience in managing agency-client relationships. They realised a need for agencies to be given more autonomy to lead clients, rather than just complying haphazardly. What’s more, there was an alienating gap between agencies and the decision makers on the clients’ side – a gap which hinders progress and development with regards to work. Clients deserve great services, but agencies can only deliver effectively if they can work closely with clients, and if they are given ample space to offer and actually implement strategic ideas, suggestions, and recommendations; all of which they are paid to provide in the first place. There was a need to bring about change to this overarching issue that somewhat limited creativity and growth in the industry. Therein lay an opportunity to offer a more personalised and opened approach to agency-client relationship, and Orchan (orchestrate change) was the result of that.

This founding story serves as a reminder and a drive for us to do great work for ourselves and for our clients. We believe that change is inevitable, and the only way towards success is to embrace the fact and focus on growth in whatever we’re doing. You can see the manifestation of this feeling in the work we do, and in how we interact both at work and in life. And our clients have come to appreciate and respect that.

The major part of this article was extracted from John Seaman and Robert Ferguson’s feature on International Association of Business Communicators titled What’s your story? What works with storytelling and why.

Fithri Faisal is a Public Relations Executive at Orchan Consulting. He is dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of delivering excellence. To Fithri, public relations is just one of a plethora of integrated tools a brand can use to get its name out there, and he is here to assist with making that happen for clients. If he’s not at his desk, he’s most likely sipping tea somewhere contemplating life (and business).

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