Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Happy 100th, National Park Service


For its 100th anniversary, the U.S. National Park Service has erected a handsome if glitchy centennial web portal. Readers can delve into: 
  • Stories of individual parks (Find Your Park)
  • Future plans (Building on Success) 
  • Visionary Leaders (such as environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, shown above with a feline friend; Douglas's book, The Everglades: River of Grass, published in 1947, describes "the natural treasure she fought so hard to protect").
  • and a call to action (Get Involved); this is always a good idea, especially for a perennially underfunded institution such as NPS
Unfortunately the centennial page's back button seems to lead to dead-end error messages. And NPS would benefit from a clear link to a separate batch of wonderful organizational stories. Last but not least, why no Timeline? Maybe it's in there, but we couldn't find it. Business anniversary tip: Honor Commandment 7 of our 10 Commandments of About Us pages, namely Keep Navigation Easy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Strand Bookstore Timeline Display

Displaying your timeline is one of the most powerful ways to showcase your company history. Here's a good example from Strand Bookstore in New York City, a handsome mix of business history photos and infographics. 
  
> The historical timeline enlivens what could be dead space in the stairwell.  

> It's a reminder that Strand is the sole surviving bookstore on Book Row in Manhattan. It never hurts to make your customers feel good about where they're shopping. When I buy books at the Strand, I'm helping to keep alive independent bookselling, the publishing business, New York history . . . . 

> Creating an organizational timeline compels you to gather your big-picture history. It's how most corporate historians initially organize their research. 

I'd love see another panel that updates the timeline to 2015!


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Airline Visual Identity

From "Airline Visual Identity
1945-1975," Callisto Publishers
Can your organization tell its story in a single image? For inspiration, look to Airline Visual Identity 1945-1975 by M. C. Huhne, new from European fine arts publisher Callisto. The book costs $400, but consider that the trim size is 12 x 16 inches. As we like to say at CorporateHistory.net, a book is not truly a coffee table book until it's the size of a coffee tables. Also, per Callisto's website: "To reproduce the outstanding work of that era as precisely as possible, a total of 17 different colors, five different types of varnishes, and two different methods of foil printing and embossing were used, resulting in a book of exceptional vivacity that highlights the state of the art of today’s printing technology."

A 17-color print job! This is no mere business history. Instead it's the visual chronicle of an industry in a golden age of transportation and design--truly a historical timeline. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Union Square Hospitality Group: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate History.net

Danny Meyer’s first restaurant (opened when he was 27 years old) is the award-winning Union Square Cafe, which has held the top spot in Zagat’s New York City restaurant guide nine times. Under the name Union Square Hospitality Group, Meyer also runs the Gramercy Tavern, a catering service, and restaurants at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney, among others. Together these have won 26 prestigious James Beard Foundation awards. And let’s not forget the ubiquitous Shake Shacks. The main About Us page is Company.

OVERALL GRADE: B

Products/Services: B
The above-the-fold graphic on the Company page is (how rare!) full of solid business history content: when the company opened its first restaurant and its first Shake Shack, number of Beard Awards, number of employees with the company for more than ten years, and so on. It’s concise and attractive. Adding links to pages with more information - for example, a list of Beard Awards received – would be a great idea.

The text below the graphic gets a slow start with an abstract discussion of what it means to enrich lives. For the sake of fickle web-surfers and those of us who appreciate corporate storytelling, why not start with the second paragraph: “We’ve created some of New York City’s most beloved and celebrated restaurants ...” ?

We appreciate the clever text of the timeline (History), which has catchy phrases such as “elegant and fiercely seasonal cuisine.” But once the corporate history has made our mouths start to water, why not offer us links to the websites of the restaurants mentioned on the timeline?

Personality: B
Our Commandment 3 of About Us pages is, “Reveal thy personality.” Danny Meyer, founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group, unfortunately isn’t given much space on the Company and History pages. There is a page is devoted to his book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, with a sidebar that offers a thought-provoking quote of substantial length from Meyer (bravo!). Digging into the People and Leaders pages, we found a good bio of Meyer. But ... we assume that as the founder, it’s his ideas and his drive that have led to the award-winning quality of his restaurants as well as his focus on philanthropy (see Community). Why not have him explain in his own words why he made these choices and where he plans to go from here? That would make for compelling corporate storytelling.

Accessibility: C
The Contact page (available from the footer) offers a mailing address, phone, and email address, with social media icons). This is adequate.

TAKEAWAY
Even if you’re proud of the stellar team your company has assembled, don’t be afraid to let the founder’s or leader’s personality shine through in your About Us pages: it’ll give visitors a much better sense of what makes your company tick.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy 75th, Col. Sanders

Colonel Sanders is out of retirement after 21 years. KFC has given him a cool new 75th anniversary website of his own, in which the Colonel (at six stages of his life) talks about Cuban donkeys, strums a mandolin, and of course fries up some chicken. The animatronics are cute, with SNL alum Daryl Hammond playing the Colonel. Business anniversary tips:
1) It's refreshing when the Founder as Great Man is presented with a sense of humor.
2) It's fun to have a person or character narrating the corporate timeline.
Great work by agency Wieden+Kennedy.