In his book, “Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results”, author Rob Biesenbach writes that an origin story “helps humanize the business in the eyes of potential customers, employees, and other key audiences —which is important because most humans prefer to deal with other humans, not institutions.”
When you get it right, your origin story can leave a lasting impression. Just think of Facebook’s tale of a Harvard sophomore and his roommate, on a mission to create a website to connect students on campus. Or Apple’s story of two young guys, working out of a garage, with a vision to democratize access to computers. Those stories have been elevated to mythical proportions. Facebook and Apple are now business juggernauts, but their origin stories make the companies and their founders relatable.
If you get it right, your origin story can help you:
- Connect with your customers, employees, and partners
- Earn their trust
- Inspire confidence
- Spark positive emotion
To Tips for Telling an Effective Origin Story
Here are some tips on how to create an origin story that leaves a mark and sets you apart from your competition
Share Your History
Your origin story, as the name implies, should first and foremost relate how your company came to be. It should invite your audience behind the curtain, and let them in on the events that brought your company to life.
Pare Down the Details
Remember that you’re telling a story, not drafting an exhaustive timeline. Timelines are boring and eminently forgettable. Crafting a compelling story is a little like sculpting: the art is in knowing what to remove.
Don’t Lose Sight of your Audience
Your origin story may well be about your company, but it’s for your audience. Remember that what fascinates you may hold no interest for someone else. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and focus on what they‘ll find interesting.
Highlight Pivotal Moments
Most founders, if they dig deep, can trace the origins of their company to at least one pivotal moment of realization. An “aha!” moment of clarity that revealed an unmet need, or a different way to do things. Now that is the stuff good origin stories are made of. Capitalize on those moments.
If you want your origin story to make your company relatable, make sure it feels personal and authentic – more like a play than a documentary. Openly share moments of struggle. People want to know about the challenges the founder faced on his or her path to launching the company. The notion of overcoming adversity can be very romantic. Put simply, most of us are suckers for a good underdog story.
I launched into my own origin story with the statement that Exaltus began with a very bad presentation… my own. In this origin story, produced for Hartuition, we show how the confluence of two moments of adversity – one professional and one personal – led founder Michele Hartmangruber to create her company.
Connect your Story to your Corporate Values
The ostensible role of your origin story is to outline the events that led to your company’s creation. Its unstated goal, however, is to underscore your corporate values and the passion that fueled your success. Decide in advance which fundamental beliefs you want to highlight, and weave them through the story you tell.
Show, Don’t Tell
You will at some point need to shine the light on your company’s strengths and accomplishments. But nobody likes a showoff. Instead of boasting about your company’s mission and values… demonstrate what you stand for by recounting the actions your company has taken.
The Founder is the Hero… but Not Really
Technically, your founders or leadership team will be the heroes of your origin story. You’ll highlight their vision, the challenges they overcome, and their eventual resounding success.
Ultimately, though, your customer is interested only in how your company can help them. Make sure your origin story highlights how your company’s success is inexorably tied to delivering unique benefits to your customers.
Bring it to Life with Video
There are many ways to tell your origin story. The most obvious is the simplest: write it out in words and plaster it on your website and in all your marketing materials.
The trouble is: the most obvious method is the most common. And if most of your competitors tell your story that way, how will you stand out?
Instead, use video to tell your story. After all, if a picture is worth 1000 words, think how much more a video is worth! Have your founder speak directly to the camera or, for a more impactful variation, produce a whiteboard video of your origin story. Whiteboard videos boast a higher recall rate than talking-head videos and are more likely to go viral.
Get it Out There!
A whiteboard animated origin story can be leveraged in a multitude of ways. Use it to:
- Explain who you are, on your About page
- Kick off an investor presentation
- Introduce your company before a keynote presentation
- Introduce yourself to prospects via Email
- Onboard new employees
- Introduce yourself to new partners
Over to You
What series of events led to the creation of your company? How do you tell the story? Does it do justice to your history and to what your company stands for? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And if you need a hand to put together your origin story, contact Exaltus today!
Carole Alalouf is the President and founder of Exaltus, and primary contributor to the Exaltus blog. In her Content Marketing role, she focuses on turning her clients’ complex information into a compelling story. Carole particularly enjoys visual storytelling in the form of presentations, whiteboard videos, websites, and infographics. Sign up to her email list and get powerful marketing tips in your inbox, 2-3 times per month.