Monday, December 24, 2012

Business History Hazards: Part 2

A colleague sent a link to a 40th anniversary video done by a business. "You'll like this," he said. I didn't. Why?
1. Too anonymous. I couldn't tell who made this business anniversary video. I had to look them up later on Google. Turns out that many companies have their name (it's a fairly common word). I narrowed it down to a large design agency. An agency that can't brand itself accurately doesn't inspire confidence.
2. Too cavalier. The video consists of rapid-fire clips from the last 40 "Best Picture" Academy Award Oscar (R) winners. Amazingly, it offered no credits at the end. I had to wonder whether the filmmaker had obtained permissions or licensing. I doubt it (would have cost a fortune). Fair use? They still should acknowledge their sources. Woody Allen is generally not amused to see people freely using pieces of "Annie Hall."
3. Too tasteless. The theme was 40, as in 40 cheers, 40 kisses, 40 tears, etc. The clips included 40 shots (as in gunshots) and 40 ka-booms. In light of recent tragic events, I'd have edited these out.
4. Too long! Six+ minutes. I hung in only to check the closing credits. See point #2.

I'm not identifying the filmmaker or providing the link here, since I'm not that much of a curmudgeon. It was posted on Vimeo, however, which hints that this video was not made public but was used at an internal event. Maybe it was a big hit as an event opener during a gala dinner. But we all know that anything posted on the Web will migrate.

Moral of the story: When celebrating a business anniversary, it makes sense to identify yourself and the materials you draw from. And why not tell your own corporate story? Or at least weave a bit of your particular workplace drama into the general mix?

From all of us at CorporateHistory.net ... Happy new year!

Part of an occasional series of cautionary and exemplary case studies

Monday, December 17, 2012

Images tell corporate story at Ebony

Ebony Magazine was the African-American equivalent of Life Magazine, pictorially reporting on news and lifestyle in the post-World War II United States. Unlike Life, however, Ebony and its sibling Jet Magazine are still going strong. Great, then, to see that Johnson Publishing has not only carefully archived 1,000,000 images from these iconic publications -- we've seen many of them in history documentaries on PBS and elsewhere -- but is now making 2,000 of the best of them available online in The Ebony Collection. That's a great example of bringing corporate history into the mainstream.

Clearly, Johnson Publishing understands the value of corporate storytelling and how to profit from its past. All this and more: it's a family business run by Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of founder John H. Johnson.

Monday, December 10, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Cartier Gets a D minus

Cartier S.A., French jeweler and watch manufacturer, was founded in Paris in 1847 and is still headquartered there, although the Cartier family sold the business in 1964. The company is famous for providing its fantastically beautiful and expensive products to royalty and celebrities. Its corporate history probably glitters as well. But Cartier’s About Us page is .... well, that’s a problem.

OVERALL GRADE: D minus
The Cartier site is elegant and attractive, but exceedingly difficult to navigate because of the unusual layout (main menu at the foot of the page) and the unconventional headings. Looking for their About Us page, we had to choose between Show Me, Guide Me, Tell Me. We chose Tell Me, then Living Heritage. Oh, but that’s just a picture of a gorgeous emerald necklace. Click the Patrimony link? That takes us to a page where we must choose between Cartier Collection, A Vision of Heritage, or Bibliography. Hmm, Vision of Heritage? Another page with another list, telling us about the company archives and the company’s collection of Cartier jewelry ... but not about this company’s business history or current executive team.

Products/Services: D
These pages have some gorgeous photos of Cartier jewelry, but the photos and text are cramped into small boxes in the center. About half the screen is dead black. There is no option to see more text at a time. When we were done with the few words on page 1, we twiddled our fingers a couple seconds more while a new page loaded, so we could read the few words on page 2.

Accessibility: E
Suppose we want to order a set of custom cufflinks for a nephew’s birthday via email. It’s not easy: no email is listed on any of the pages we’ve visited so far. Clicking Sitemap (in tiny print at the foot of the page) takes us to a page with Customer Services, and thence to a Contact page: but why make it so difficult for us?

Personality: E
We couldn’t find any information on these pages about who runs Cartier. If company executives prefer to keep that information private, then the logical option is to stress the 165-year company history through a lusciously illustrated timeline ... but we don’t see that, either. So many corporate storytelling opportunities squandered!

TAKEAWAY
Mesdames et Messieurs: We know you’re not selling bling on street corners, but you could be a little less understated and a little more content-rich, and still be classy.


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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Business History Hazards: Part 1

A wealth management firm recently called CorporateHistory.net about rescuing some business history copywriting it had commissioned and found unusable. The marketing manager wanted to fix it and turn it into "something.” She wasn’t sure what—just not a book. (Plenty of options there!) CorporateHistory read the copy, agreed it was academic and dry, outlined a few ideas, and sent samples and estimates. "You understand what we need. You’d be ideal!” Ms. X exclaimed. “But our budget is so limited. We've already spent half of it on a writer who didn't work out." [Italics added.] 

When I asked about getting transcripts from the first writer’s interviews, she replied: "We don't have any notes, and I can never talk to that person again.” Too bad you can’t save money that way, I said; we'll need to reinterview for sure. "Oh, no,” Ms X. said. “The first person messed up so badly that I can't bother my top people again."

Bother? A firm’s key partners-owners can’t spare a few hours toward their own 150th anniversary campaign? The marketing person called us twice more. Each time she sounded more desperate. Working under difficult constraints, she had to reject every idea and workaround we offered. Along the way I noted to myself that the firm hasn’t updated its website About Us page in two years – another clue that marketing is an afterthought in this organization.

I wished the caller farewell and good luck, and I meant it. She has little budget and even less support from the top. She may hire a rookie and repeat the cycle. By then it will be too late to remediate. Starting early on your business anniversary always saves time and money.

This firm will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a gala dinner in a grand hotel this spring, and they won’t swap caviar for chicken. Nor should they. But by then they may have digested another reality: top-notch business history writing and concepts don’t come at fast-food rates. Or, in the words of the classic Truman’s Triangle: good, fast, cheap—pick any two.

First of an occasional series of cautionary and exemplary case studies

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Food for Thought for Speechwriters from E. B. White

"It is not the written word, but the spoken word, which in heated moments moves great masses of people to noble or ignoble action." This observation by E. B. White in his essay "Freedom," published in July 1940, captures the mood of the U.S. in that difficult time. We were still 17 months away from joining in the war, but we were watching it unfold throughout Europe. To understand the enemy, White read and analyzed Mein Kampf. Although not a speechwriter himself, White fully understood the power of spoken rhetoric--especially when it is mouthed by tyrants.

White advocated equally for the "written word, [which] unlike the spoken word, is something which every person examines privately and judges calmly by his own intellectual standards, not by what the man standing next to him thinks." One wonders what he'd make of our age of hyper mass media.

My favorite part of White's essay: "I am inordinately proud these days of the quill [pen], for it has shown itself, historically, to be the hypodermic which inoculates men and keeps the germ of freedom always in circulation, so that there are individuals in every time in every land who are the carriers, the Typhoid Mary's, capable of infecting others by mere contact and example."

For speechwriters and corporate history writers, White's "Freedom" provides excellent food for thought during Thanksgiving week. It appears in One Man's Meat (a collection of his essays for Harper's Magazine), which is still in print -- as is the anthology Essays of E. B. White. That's something to be thankful for, this week or any week. Happy T-day!

Monday, November 12, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: CNET Gets a C plus

CNET publishes news, reviews, blogs, and podcasts on technology and consumer electronics. Its unbiased experts are known for their ability to demystify technology. Founded in 1994 by Halsey Minor and Shelby Bonnie, CNET was acquired by CBS Interactive in 2008. The company’s About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: C plus

Products/Services: B
We like the home-page overview: five headings, each with a teaser and a link. The only flaw is (unfortunately!) on the very first item, “Who we are and what we do.” That phrase promises at least a smidgen of business history. Instead we get a teaser -- “CNET is a collective of the tech-savvy and tech-obsessed” -- which doesn’t indicate what CNET does or why it’s unique. CNET’s strengths are set out clearly and concisely on the Press and Investor page: they need to be stated here as well, where far more people will see them.

CNET has the unusual challenge of listing categories, criteria, and winners of awards they give, rather than trying to impress us with awards they’ve received. Here and elsewhere on the About Us pages, we’d like to see more images of the wide range of products that CNET reviews – perhaps a slide show of the latest winners in major categories, changed weekly or monthly.

Personality: C
When we rely on reviewers for high-end purchases, we like to know something about their background and qualifications. The concept of CNET’s individual pages on each editor is great: comments and reviews the expert has posted on the left, short bio with interests and activities on the right. We would have given CNET an A for personality, except that two of the four reviewers highlighted on the CNET Editors page didn’t bother to submit bios. This is the sort of detail we’d expect tech-savvy and tech-obsessed people (or their editors) to pay attention to.

Accessibility: C
Via links at the lower right of the About Us page or on Where to Find Us, we can follow CNET nine different ways. Each of the editors has an email contact. But what if we don’t know which editor we want to contact? There seems to be no general email or online contact form.

TAKEAWAY
While we admire (for esthetic reasons) the uncluttered look of CNET’s pages, we’d like more information: more photos of items reviewed, better bios of the people who write the reviews, and a bit of corporate history that reflects CNET’s well-deserved reputation among users of all tech stripes.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation. Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pratt celebrates 125 years with style

Pratt Institute has educated and nurtured some of the world's most amazing artists and designers. Great to see, then, how execs at the Brooklyn-based school have marshalled not just talent but impressive resources to commemorate Pratt's 125th anniversary. The celebration has included Alumni Days, a gala, and an online and physical gallery of works by alum ranging from Tom and Jerry cartoons by Joe Barbera, the clean-lined Cuisinart by Marc Harrison, and the Dunkin' Donuts logo by Lucia DeRespinis. Visitors to the Web gallery can vote on their favorites.

Cool videos, too: the historical reel lacks narration but features superb historical photos and quotes from such Pratt champions as Beverly Pepper (sculptor, class of '42), Patti Smith, and Ellsworth Kelly. Nice touch to include a second video with Jared Bell, designer of Pratt's 125th logo (pictured here). No corporate history book per se, alas, but the alumni magazine produced a huge school history issue that can be perused online.

The entire organizational anniversary campaign feels very authentic and is a huge treat for the eye. Congrats, Pratt!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Light Reading on a Heavy Subject

Corporate communications wouldn't seem to be a likely subject for comic mystery writing. But Simon Brett's novel "Corporate Bodies" pulls it off brilliantly. Brett's mysteries featuring the hapless, B-list actor Charles Paris are my favorite airport reading. I can always count on him for an out-loud chuckle by page 3 and flat-out laughter by Chapter 2. Brett is the Oscar Wilde of a genre -- formula mystery -- that otherwise leaves me indifferent.

In short, "Corporate Bodies" finds Charles playing the role of a forklift driver in a corporate video for Delmoleen Foods. Forklifts lead to accidents, and that leads to murder, launching Charles into motion once again as an amateur sleuth. Brett skewers the excesses of corporate jargon-speak, as well he should. He brings the case to a blistering climax at a conference jam-packed with overwrought speeches. Charles's last-minute narration of a slide show (PowerPoint precursor) that goes devastatingly wrong had me gasping with laughter and rue.

I won't ruin the plot, and I'm not sure if this early 1990s volume is available for download ... but check your local library or bookstore, and treat yourself to some well-deserved light reading that may help you lighten up your own corporate history and speechwriting excesses. It's been a good reminder for me to write more plainly and to keep Ppt excesses to a minimum.

Monday, October 22, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Target Logistics Gets an A minus

For companies whose workers are isolated in distant locations from North Dakota to Iraq, Target Logistics (“Wherever you go, whatever it takes”) provides modular housing and facilities, catering, transportation, and security. In September 2012, Inc. magazine rated it one of America’s 500 fastest-growing private companies. (Bonus points to Target Logistics for having the Inc. 500 logo prominently displayed, with a link to a well-written press release.) The About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: A minus
We don’t often enthuse about graphics, but we love the ones on these pages: the grid is divided into sections of various sizes, as if it were modular units.

Products/Services: A plus
Each of the About Us pages focuses on services provided and benefits to customers: always an excellent choice. The Our Clients page offers an impressive list of private and government clients. Not every company can publicize such information, but it’s a great confidence booster for potential clients -- especially when the company has no corporate history page.

The Economics of Comfort page is brilliant: professional photos of Target Logistics facilities (not glossy or glamorous) with substantial captions that explain why employers should be providing (for example) oversize towels, saunas, and heater blocks for cars. We aren’t competent to work on a North Dakota drilling site, but based on the description here, we’d sure like to have a Hibernator Sleep System. Posting a few enthusiastic testimonials from those who have stayed at the “man camps” run by Target Logistics would make these About Us pages even better. (So might a more gender-neutral name, in theory, but “man camp” is apt.)

Personality: B
The Our Team page lists the names and titles of 11 top executives, each with a link to a basic, functional bio: current duties, past experience, education and community, philanthropic activities, and so on.

We miss the personal touch. Brian Lash, CEO, said in Inc.’s two-page spread on Target Logistics, “You’ve got a 250-pound man burning 5,000 calories a day out there. Our job is to give him a five-star meal and a pillow-top mattress.” That’s a great summary of the company’s mission. It ought to be on Lash’s bio page, and elsewhere on the site as well.

Accessibility: A
Every page has an email link and a telephone number. The Contact Us page has a mailing address and links for offices worldwide, with the name of the person in charge, address, and email. Nothing innovative here, but we appreciate a thoroughly functional Contact Us page.

TAKEAWAY
The Target Logistics About Us pages have great layout and great content; most importantly, they continually emphasize the benefits to clients of the company’s services. A little more business history would provide the icing on the cake. However: Well done!

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Media Biz Gyrations: Dave Astor's First-Person Account

Dave Astor’s book Comic (and Column) Confessional is an industry history with a twist. It expertly captures the gyrations of the print media business through the prism of its author’s career. Dave worked at Editor & Publisher magazine for 25 years, mainly covering the newspaper syndication beat. Syndication includes cartoons and columns, so his book is full of quotes by creators ranging from Dear Abby to Gary Larson of “The Far Side” comic fame. Fittingly, it embraces advice and absurdity in equal measure.

Dave and I were Rutgers College classmates and fellow reporters for the daily paper there (Dave became editor-in-chief). We hadn’t crossed paths since graduation day. He describes himself as painfully shy. His book, in part, is about how he got over “the esteem thing” (his phrase). I for one was glad to learn that he is essentially the same quiet, deep guy I knew back then.

In 2008 Dave was writing for E&P’s shrinking print edition. He was also cranking out upwards of six Web pieces a day and answering 1,000 emails a week. You can guess how the story ends: he is one of 20 employees laid off in a most ungracious but all too typical downsizing. He describes this workplace drama, and many others, with accuracy and barbed wit. I nodded my head often at observations like: “Newspapers made things worse for themselves by offering content that was often staid and boring—whether in print or on their Web sites.”

Yes! I believe that newspapers are (or were) the "first draft of history" and I always buy the local daily in every city to which my corporate history work takes me. So many papers have traded their vital "localness" for a surfeit of wire service news. Syndicated cartoonists and columnists are on the losing end, too.

Woven through the media history is a personal memoir which I found very affecting (you don’t need to have known Dave as a young man to be touched by it). Dave describes the death of his first daughter, which involved medical malpractice, with great tenderness and justified anger. We see him blossoming as a parent, raising a second daughter, surviving a divorce, and finding love and parenthood again in a second marriage. I particularly appreciate that he does not proselytize about the joys and sorrows of having kids; instead, he lets us experience it through his eyes, and he doesn't diss people who haven't had children.  

Today Dave blogs for the Huffington Post (unpaid; seems grossly unfair, but it’s his choice), writes a humor column for the Montclair Times (NJ), and does other freelance work. Comic (and Column) Confessional, published by Xenos Press, is available directly from Dave or on Amazon.


Monday, October 8, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Chicago Music Exchange Gets an A

Chicago Music Exchange sells, repairs, and restores guitars. Located on Chicago’s North Side, it caters to everyone from recreational players to Adele, and has current revenue of $8 million. We first heard of CME through an article in Entrepreneur in August 2012. Its About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: A
The title of CME’s About Us page sets the perfect tone: “We’re Here to Rock Your World.” Throughout the About Us pages and the rest of the site, the tone is consistently casual, but the content is never silly or off-point.

We were puzzled at first by the menu options on the left menu. Who has that many About Us pages? Then it occurred to us that About Us pages are often segregated in their own little ghetto, with few links in or out. We like CME’s approach, in which the About Us pages are thoroughly integrated into the site.

Products/Services: A+
This site is all about the guitars: you can’t click on a single page without seeing one or more images of them. The unobtrusive testimonials (Celebrity Guests, Our Fans) give the impression that CME staff is willing to help you whether you’re playing in your basement on weekends or doing shows at Madison Square Garden.

Personality: A
On the Meet the Team page (“Think of us as your roadies!”), almost every staff member is shown with a guitar, and after a very brief bio (in same light, casual tone as the rest of the site), every staff member states his favorite guitar and his favorite concert. Very clever: it’s great product placement, and implies that any guitar you’re interested in, these guys will be familiar with.

Accessibility: A
The Contact Us page is well done: it offers business hours, a map, phone, address, email, Twitter, and an assortment of social media links, all tidily organized to fit on a single screen.

We’d like to see a link on this page to the Buy-Sell-Trade page. Although we often have pointed suggestions about online email forms, this one gathers information from potential sellers that is crucial for CME. Since the sale of vintage guitars is an important aspect of CME’s business, it makes sense to make this form accessible via the Contact Us page.

TAKEAWAY
Chicago Music Exchange’s About Us pages are friendly, informative, and nicely laid out. Well done! Rock on!

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation. Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

To look forward, look backward (even Harvard says so)

"A company's history can also be instructive. What was the vision of the founders? What were the products and customers that made the company? Looking backward, one can reexamine the original strategy to see if it is still valid. Can the historical positioning be implemented in a modern way, one consistent with today's technologies and practices?

"This sort of thinking may lead to a commitment to renew the strategy and may challenge the organization to recover its distinctiveness. Such a challenge can be galvanizing and can instill the confidence to make the needed tradeoffs."

These words by Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter can be found in his essay "What Is Strategy?" It's part of HBR's 10 Must Reads on Strategy (copyright 2011, Harvard Business Review Press, available in print and on Nook).

Using history to galvanize and recover an organization's distinctiveness is a message I try to communicate all the time. Looking backward isn't a mere exercise; it's a vital component of the future. Besides teaching and writing, Porter chairs HBS's program for newly appointed CEOs of large corporations. I hope his executive students are listening to the history message.



Monday, September 24, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Bose Gets a B


Bose Corporation, headquartered in Framingham, Massachusetts, was established in 1964 by Dr. Amar G. Bose, and is still privately held. It specializes in audio equipment, including speakers, noise-cancelling headphones, and automotive sound systems. The company’s About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: B
The main About Us page is a clear presentation of the company’s products and aims, with an excellent use of headings, teasers, images, and links. All of this information is efficiently laid out to fit on one or two screens.

Products/Services: A+
The Bose About Us pages are all about the products, yet not an outright sales pitch. Our Philosophy states the company’s commitment to research and excellence in sound systems. A History of Bose gives a glimpse into the founder’s mind (he couldn’t find a stereo that reproduced the quality of a live performance, so he decided to build one) and a quick survey of Bose’s innovations. Milestones gives details on Bose’s innovations over the years, wisely focusing not on technical aspects or on the growth of the company, but on the benefits to owners of Bose products.

This order (philosophy, history, milestones) is the one on the main About Us page and on the left-hand menu of the subpages, so visitors are guided to more and more detailed information – but could leave at any point and still know the basics of Bose.

Personality: C
Little information is given about the people who run Bose. Normally that would bother us, but the great content and clean layout suggest the sort of efficiency and reliability that we appreciate in our electronic gizmos and gadgets.

Accessibility: C
The Contact Us page is plain vanilla, but functional. For the online email forms (here, for example), we’d like the option of “other” rather than Bose’s choices. If they’re going to send us a confirmation that they’ve received our query (with a copy of what we said), we’d like to be told that up front.

TAKEAWAY
Bose gets top marks for keeping the focus of these pages on Bose products and their benefits to owners, and for presenting the information in an order that’s very well thought out.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Monday, September 17, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Chobani Greek Yogurt Gets a B+


Chobani was established in 2005 by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant. It’s based in New Berlin, N.Y., in what is fast becoming known as the yogurt belt of the U.S. for all the Greek yogurt manufacturers headquartered there. With sales approaching $1 billion, Chobani Yogurt is now sold in the United States, Canada, and Australia. It has 600,000 Facebook fans and was a sponsor of the 2012 Olympics. Chobani’s About Us page (“Our Story”) is here.

OVERALL GRADE: B plus
The Chobani About Us page is has a great casual tone, good focus, and excellent visuals. The problem is the layout: it’s too large and sprawling. A group photo takes up most of the space above the fold, and no links or teasers entice us to scroll down.

A couple minor errors on the Our Story page should be fixed, since they suggest a possible lack of attention to more important issues. “Chocked full of health benefits”?

Products/Services: A
Chobani is a single-product company, and its About Us page is focused on the product: why it was created (“How We Got Started”) and why it’s different (“What Makes Our Yogurt Special”). Well done.

We are consumers of Greek yogurt, so we’d tried the product. (Our regular brand is Trader Joe – but who knows? Maybe Chobani does private-labeling for them.) Then we read a full-page article in Entrepreneur (August 2012), which praised Chobani for its online presence. So what’s going on with Chobani’s News page? The most recent article is dated December 2011. If you’re going to have a media page – and you should, since it gives you the chance to send site visitors to favorable media coverage – then you must keep the page updated.

Accessibility: B
Chobani is very social-media oriented, and the text below their Contact Us link on the main About Us page has a casual, comfortable approach suited to that medium: “Our Customer Loyalty Team is ready and waiting to handle your questions, comments and concerns. Get in touch.” The Contact Us page is an online form (too sprawling for our taste), but emails are given for general inquiries and media, and links to suggest a recipe (nice touch!) or to see a FAQ. Given the company’s extensive use of social media, we’re surprised that on this page, the buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and so on appear only in the footer.

We wonder if the lack of mailing address is an oversight or deliberate; and if deliberate, why?

Personality: B
The only person mentioned by name on the Our Story page is Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya. However, the group photo (clearly not Photoshopped) conveys a sense that Chobani is run by a happy team of normal, yogurt-eating guys and gals: not a suit or tie in sight. “How We Got Started,” toward the end of the Our Story page, makes the founder’s quest one that all yogurt-eaters can sympathize with.

TAKEAWAY
Chobani has the tone and content of their About Us page right, but the layout needs to be adjusted to make visitors more likely to read it.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation. Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Objects Do Tell Stories

It’s no secret that in addition to my work at CorporateHistory.net, I’ve also written general history books such as The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party. I teach different forms of writing, as well. To keep in practice I attend writing workshops, and I had the pleasure of doing so last month in western Massachusetts.

In those green hills, a little object came into my possession temporarily: an ivory-colored case, about the size of an average index finger. It opened to reveal a green velveteen lining and a fold-out ruler from the Ashton Valve Company. Probably it was a promotional item, a leave-behind, something salesmen gave to prospects. Since it was made of a Bakelite-ish plastic, I'd estimate its date as early 1950s. (Alas, I didn't take a photo of it.)

Founded in 1871, Ashton made safety valves for locomotives, steamships, and fire engines. No surprise that it’s no longer in business. That’s implied here by the Cambridge (Mass.) Historical Society.

So much corporate history in one small object! The company name is in a lovely font, similar to Palmer Method handwriting. (There really was a Mr. Palmer, but that’s a story for another blog post). It’s a fantastic typeface with subtle dropped shadows. Unfolding the ruler shows that Ashton was based in Boston (actually Cambridge, or at least that's where its plant was). The other branch addresses are crammed onto the third part of the ruler: New York, USA 110 Liberty St.; Chicago USA, 160 W. Lake St.; and London, England, 1&2 Rangoon St. If I were to write a mystery, I’d use 1&2 Rangoon St. as a key location. Oh, and Vienna, Austria, at V 1/1 Kostlergrasse NR 1. So Ashton was global, and thus the rule is in inches and metric.

The other side sets out what companies today would call the mission statement. All caps again: OUR RULE: NOT HOW CHEAP BUT HOW GOOD. 
YOUR RULE: THE BEST IS THE CHEAPEST IN THE END.
THE BEST RULE: BUY ASHTON, SUPERIOR QUALITY VALVES AND GAGES.

In tiny, tiny type – 4 pt type at most, what we used to call mouse type – is the name of the ruler maker: The Whitehead & Hoag Company, Newark, NJ. At the turn of the 20th century that firm was one of the world’s largest makers of advertising novelties. It went out of business in 1955.

Ashton saved the description of what it did for the end: “Superior Quality Valves and Gages.”  Businesses were modest in those days.

I loved this little gizmo and gave it back to its owner with reluctance. It’s well-designed. It’s classy. It operates as smoothly as the day it was fabricated in Newark. Just a little piece of business history, obliquely still alive. Objects do tell stories.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Oral History Usage at Its Best

Superb use of oral history! That's Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told, by Kenneth Turan and Joseph Papp (published by Doubleday in 2009). Despite ultimately being named as coauthor, the famously mercurial Papp blocked publication of this book in the last years of his life. Kenneth Turan persevered, having interviewed 160 theater pros from Colleen Dewhurst to Mike Nichols to Meryl Streep, and finally he was allowed by Papp's estate to assemble the book that tells the inside stories of New York's one and only Public Theater. It's a riveting business history if I ever read one.

The volume is beautifully organized: back story of the publication itself, brief Papp biog, early years of the venture, then separate chapters on seminal productions starting with "Hair" and taking us through "Aunt Dan and Lemon." Within each chapter we hear the voices of the playwrights, actors, and tech people who worked on the shows. It ends at 1985, which is when Papp froze the project.

But wow, can these folks talk. Dish. Spill. Example by Paul Sorvino, talking about the rehearsals for "That Championship Season," which often turned into brawls: "I had that arrogance of youth that thank god doesn't stay with you too long, if you have any brains at all ... I felt that way about my acting, and that may have bothered some [of the other actors] who were looking for their roles."

Turan captures the strength of the form in his Introduction: "A story like this, filled with alive, articulate not to mention theatrical people, turned out to be especially suited to the oral-history format. There is a vividness and immediacy about direct speech, a sense of life about individuals speaking for themselves, that makes oral history the most intrinsically dramatic of narrative mediums."

Pure catnip for theater nuts like me -- and a noteworthy use of oral history interviews that surpasses even such high-level gems as the Studs Terkel Working books.

Publishing notes and Marian the Grammarian nitpicks: It's a shame that Colleen Dewhurst's name is misspelled, and it's a minor tragedy that a book as good as this one is on remainder (you can find it in the Daedalus catalog).

Monday, August 27, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Ford Foundation Gets a B


The Ford Foundation, established in 1936 by a $25,000 gift from Edsel Ford and Henry Ford, parlayed its non-voting shares in Ford Motor Company into current assets of $10 billion. With particular interests in education, the arts, and Third World development, it is one of the world’s largest and most influential foundations, dispensing grants of $413 million in 2011. The Ford Foundation’s main About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: B
The main About Us page offers no fewer than 12 navigational options, each with a heading and teaser, many with an image as well – yet the grid layout and white background prevent us from feeling overwhelmed with choices. Well done.

We wonder (as we often do) whether such a large photo “above the fold” is the most effective use of space; but in this case, the image is flanked by a brief mission statement. That is worth the space, since the name “Ford Foundation” (while famous) doesn’t give a clue what the organization’s focus is.

One tweak: we’d appreciate having a caption for the large image that tells how it’s related to the Ford Foundation’s work. If it’s important enough to include, it ought to be identified.

Products/Services: A
This is a well-integrated, well-though-out set of About Us pages. A brief mission statement is front and center on the main About Us page, with a link to a mission page where it’s summarized in a bulleted list and elaborated. The dense history page (some subheads or additional photos would be welcome) properly keeps the focus on the Foundation’s long-term goals.

As for graphic design, we like the elegantly simple layout of the interactive timeline and the timeline of Nobel Laureates, which consist of photos whose captions appear when you roll the mouse over them. To give a broad perspective, though, the whole timeline should be available as a PDF. Since designing interactive history timelines is part of what CorporateHistory.net does, we know how effortless the good ones look—and how difficult they actually are to create.

Personality: A
The main About Us page makes it immediately clear who runs the Foundation: the president’s photo appears with a link to all his speeches and letters. The ten grant-makers also get top billing, with photos and a link to a page about them or to separate bio pages that state each grant-maker’s areas of interest and qualifications.

Accessibility: C
At the lower right of the main About us page are the address and telephone of the Foundation’s headquarters. A link leads to a dedicated Contact Us page with more information. Nothing innovative here, but it’s functional.

TAKEAWAY
Throughout its About Us pages, the Ford Foundation does an excellent job of making clear what the organization does and who runs it. The main page and interactive timeline are particularly noteworthy for their rich content and efficient layout.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation. Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Clorox Lights Up the Sky

The Clorox Company is leveraging its upcoming 100th anniversary in all kinds of ways. The official tagline is "100 Years, 1000 Reasons." We admit we're a bit biased here at CorporateHistory.net since our president, Marian Calabro, authored Clorox's 100th anniversary book (scheduled for 2013 publication) and most of its online Heritage Timeline. In addition to celebrating its unwaivering dedication to Oakland, CA -- the city that's been home to the company's headquarters, in various locations, since 1913 -- Clorox has developed a Centennial site that's featured here.   And there will be much more news to come as 2013 unfolds.

Meantime, here's how Clorox will light up the sky in California's Bay Area tonight, according to a company press release:

<OAKLAND, Calif., Aug. 21, 2012 - The Clorox Company (CLX) today announced it will flip the switch, for the first time, on two new 17-foot-high rooftop signs on its corporate headquarters in downtown Oakland at 8:30 p.m. Pacific time, tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 21. This will further establish the company's presence on the city's skyline.  

"As Clorox approaches its centennial anniversary, we felt it was important to prominently brand our corporate headquarters to commemorate our past and future," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Don Knauss. "For the last 100 years, we've had the privilege of being an employer, a business partner and a member of the Oakland community. We've also grown from a one-product company into a global business with a diverse portfolio of trusted brands. We've come a long way since 1913 and there's more on the horizon."

The company's new sign features Clorox's recently updated corporate logo, which reflects the most dramatic change in its visual identity since 1957. Using a modernized version of the company's iconic diamond mark with a brighter blue color and added accents of green, Clorox's new logo presents the corporate brand as modern and evolving. It also reflects the strength and direction of the company's brand portfolio and underscores its commitment to sustainability.

Using LED lights and a timer, Clorox's illuminated signs are environmentally-friendly and compliant with the U.S. Green Building Association's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED standards. In 2011, Clorox's headquarters achieved (LEED) EB platinum certification, the highest sustainability recognition an existing building can attain. >

Monday, August 13, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Modcloth Gets an A


Modcloth, an online retailer, was launched in 2002 by Carnegie Mellon students Susan Gregg and Eric Koger. The site specializes in vintage and vintage-inspired clothing, particularly clothing by independent designers. As of 2009, annual revenues were over $15 million. Modcloth’s About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: A

Products/Services: A
The main About Us page starts with a brief statement about what the company does, who founded it and what drives it. Then, under subheads, it goes into progressively more detail about the Modcloth Community (indie designers, customers who are also “buyers”) and the company’s history. The page ends with prominent links for fashion bloggers, job-seekers, and media.

Although this is a long page, the hierarchy is spot-on and the headings, short paragraphs, and frequent graphics (most showing the company’s products) make it an enticing read.

We like the Testimonials page, which includes dozens of comments from satisfied clients. The Press page has images of the covers of magazines that mentioned Modcloth. In an intelligent twist, rather than linking directly to the stories, the cover images link to Modcloth Blog posts that provide links to the products featured in the article.

Personality: A plus
Life at Modcloth (accessible from the side menu on the About Us page) is aimed at both potential clients and job-seekers. The quotes from employees and the slideshow at the top give a good sense how the company operates. Incidentally, if the “Life Is Good at Modcloth” section were at the top of the About Us page, we’d be bored; but after we’ve read about the company, its founders, and its employees, the phrases seem to have some meaning: “mutual respect and dedication,” “team-oriented,” “rewarding, challenging, and meaningful work.”

We particularly like - and seldom see - a page devoted to the founder. A long interview reveals why Susan Gregg-Koger started the company, what she loves about it, how she runs it, and what day-to-day operations are like. Susan created and embodies the company’s personality. And how clever to include a full-length photo of her wearing one of the company’s dresses that’s so pretty it may make some women want to search for it all over the Modcloth site! The biography of Winston, the office pug dog, adds a homey touch. Who was it who said: “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like?”

Accessibility: A Plus
We were perplexed for a minute when we couldn’t find a Contact Us page. Eventually we clicked on “Customer Care” instead, and discovered a pop-up box with options for email, phone, or a live chat session. The box also includes a FAQ and links to other useful pages. Social media icons are in the footer of every page. The Press Kit is available from the left menu of all the About Us pages. Well done.


TAKEAWAY
Modcloth’s About Us pages keep the product in sight at all times and vividly convey the personality of those who founded and run the company.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation. Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Business Biography Morsels

A feature always worth reading in the Sunday business section of The New York Times is the "Preoccupations" column. The format is "By XYZ as told to Patricia R. Olsen." Mr. or Ms. XYZ is a corporate person with a passion for a special aspect of his or her job. Pat does a great job of finding fascinating stories and telling them in the subject's own voice. I'd equate the pieces to sidebars in an executive memoir: They don't tell the whole story, but they definitely capture the subject's style and approach to management.

This one focuses on an enterprising actuary for Towers Watson (CorporateHistory.net is proud to have written and published Our Family Tree: The Towers Watson Story).

And this one, by the CEO of Western Union, ends with the refreshing sentiment "Diversity attracts diversity."


Monday, July 30, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: E*Trade Gets a D Minus


E*Trade’s main business is online discount stock brokerage for self-directed investors. Founded in 1991, at the beginning of the Internet boom, it originally offered its trading services via America Online and Compuserve (now there’s a historical fact). Its headquarters are in New York. E*Trade’s main About Us page is here.

OVERALL GRADE: D Minus
E*Trade’s baby broker is one of the few faces that makes us stop fast-forwarding through TV commercials. Alas, the E*Trade site doesn’t seem to include a single image of the child – and there’s not much else that’s entertaining or enticing, either.
Also worth noting: the E*Trade site is not easy to navigate. We found the FAQ page only via a Google search. We wonder how much more we’re missing!

Products/Services: D
If you want me to entrust you with a substantial part of my income and savings, you’d better explain where your company comes from, what it offers, and what its operating principles are. Yet the Corporate Facts offered on E*Trade’s About Us page consist of a brief bulleted list without a single link within the text leading to further information. What does appear here, in a large footer, are government-mandated warnings, “Important Disclosures.” On E*Trade’s home page, awards from SmartMoney, Kiplinger’s and Barron’s are prominently displayed. Why not put them on the About Us page (with links, of course) to help offset that daunting disclaimer?

E*Trade’s Home page has many more details about the services offered. We’d love to see a bulleted list on the About us page of the company’s services, linked to pages with specific information.

Accessibility: E
To access E*Trade’s Contact Us page requires that one sign in or create an account. We prefer not to give out our banking information on a first date, but once on this page there are no menus to help us seek information elsewhere. Yet E*Trade’s home page has options for phone and chat: why, oh why are those not on the Contact page as well?

Personality: D
From the About Us page, we don’t get even a hint of E*Trade’s position as one of the earliest online brokerage services, although that would certainly help establish its credibility with potential clients. The only company history on the site is a brief bulleted list on the main page: date founded, CEO, number of employees, headquarters, number of retail branches.

Stubbornly searching for more information, we discovered that Investor Relations is merely a list of E*Trade press releases and presentations, none with a summary that would entice us to look further. Nor do the biographies of the Leadership Team make scintillating reading. (Can’t we have the Baby Broker here as Special Assistant to the CMO?) We do like the length of the Leadership page, which is kept to a manageable size by showing a summary of each officer’s current duties with a “more” link for the full biography.

TAKEAWAY
E*Trade’s About Us pages fail to convey the company’s products and personality. They’re difficult to navigate, provide inadequate information about the company’s services, and fail to take advantage of a widely known advertising campaign.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation. Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

History = Reputation (and Vice-Versa)

When people are uncomfortable with the word "history" in a corporate context -- they may think it's too soft or irrelevant to bottom-line results -- I suggest that they substitute the word "reputation."

A 5-minute diagnostic test, available here, allows you to determine (a) how well your organization is managing its reputation and (b) whether you've identified priorities for improvement. Sure, it's a lead generator for the Reputation Institute (with which CorporateHistory.net has no ties), but you may find some interesting results. Strongly advised for companies approaching a big anniversary.

 
 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tip of the Hat to Plattsburgh and Burlington

"Plattsburgh's 1995 Base Closing May Be Instructive for Burlington" is the headline of a good article in Seven Days, the alternative weekly in Vermont's biggest city. Journalist Kevin J. Kelley analyzes lessons learned from the loss of Plattsburgh Air Force Base and the slow but solid rejuvenation of the city. Plattsburgh and Burlington are twin cities in that they flank beautiful Lake Champlain; they're also quite different, but that's another story. Kelley kindly quotes from the book published by CorporateHistory.net on the base closure, Flying High Again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Partnering with Disney? Better know your corporate history.

Delighted to share a sampling of writer Rodney J. Moore’s insights on brand loyalty and corporate collaboration, gleaned from his recent course at the Disney Institute:

“If you've been to the Parks lately, you've probably noticed a lot more outside brands showing up. That's no accident. In fact, Disney recently announced that Starbucks would be another brand with a presence in the Parks. ... Ben May, Business Development Director, Corporate Alliances, talked about how Disney's alliances are carefully crafted to protect Disney. After all, they can't very well be associated with an embezzling CEO. Their agreements with outside brands can go on for 50 pages or more. But the key to an alliance is there must be shared equities….”  To read more, visit Rod’s blog.

My take on it: One of the first lessons shared by Disney is that companies should know their corporate history. Indeed, Disney apparently insists on this knowledge as part of its vetting process for corporate alliances.

Monday, July 9, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: 1-888-WOW-1DAY Gets a B


1-888-WOW-1DAY guarantees to paint your house (interior or exterior) in one day. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company was founded in 2010 and expects to have franchises in 50 cities by the end of 2012. Its About Us page (“Our Company”) is here.

OVERALL GRADE: B
Occasionally we want a hard copy of a web page, to discuss with the family over dinner or to hand to Grandma. The 1-888-WOW-1DAY About Us page prints with the icons for Facebook and other social media covering part of the first paragraph, and the phone number at the left masked by the CEO’s photo. The same problem occurs with other pages on the site. If it’s too difficult to make the page print properly, at least offer a PDF of facts and contact information.

Products/Services: A
The summary of the company’s business is brief and specific, and it’s reinforced by a bulleted list of the important points: well done. The grammar does need some work: “Instead of enduring 5 days of painting in your home, we do the same job in 1 day!” Few people have dared imply that being in our home is so repugnant.

We appreciate when companies send us to favorable news stories, rather than letting us turn up Google-knows-what. 1-888-WOW-1DAY’s News page offers summaries of articles about the company and links to those articles, plus a press kit and a phone number for media inquiries. The page would probably be visited more often if it were on menus: we reached it accidentally by clicking on the news logos at the upper right of the About Us page.

Accessibility: C
Since the company name is the company phone number, it appears on every page. The Contact Us page is an online form for other inquiries. We’d like the option of choosing “other” for the subject, and as always, we’d like the option of sending a copy of the message to ourselves.

Personality: B
The leaders who appear on the About Us page are dressed in the 1-888-WOW-1DAY uniform and wield painters’ tools: very clever. The bios could use polishing. Brian Scudamore’s, for example, focuses less on his achievements than on media coverage of him; there’s a name-dropping feel to it. Another example: Jim Bodden’s bio mentions that he sold the assets of his company to the Franchisor, which strikes a legalistic tone in an otherwise casual paragraph.

TAKEAWAY
We’d like to see more work on the details (leadership bios, print layout), but these are minor. The site is a model of sorts for franchised companies: it conveys what the company does, gives a sense of who runs it and under what principles, and makes it easy for potential clients or the press to get in touch.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Apex Award for CorporateHistory.net book

Delighted to report that Our Family Tree: The Towers Watson Story, published earlier this year by CorporateHistory.net for the global professional services firm Towers Watson, has won a 2012 Apex Award of Excellence for custom publishing. Apex Awards are based on the quality of their graphic design, editorial content, and communications excellence. The book is one of 11 winners in a category that drew almost 200 entries. 

Kudos all around: to CorporateHistory.net's creative team for this project -- author Richard Blodgett, designer Laurel Marx, and photo researcher Billie Porter -- and to all the fantastic people at Towers Watson who made the book possible.



Monday, June 25, 2012

New Digital Collections at the Hagley

The Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, DE, calls itself the nation's leading business history library and archive. It's a fair self-assessment. CorporateHistory.net LLC is proud to be a corporate sponsor, albeit on a small scale--and I hope to visit in person this week during a visit to the nearby University of Delaware at Newark for a Teaching American History presentation.

Last year the Hagley added 13 significant collections and uploaded 70,000 pages to its digital archives (linked below), among them extensive materials from Avon (the cosmetics folks), Nation's Business magazine and photos from 1912 to 1999 (we're hungering to use some of those in our books!), and the Enron Board Records Collection (because business history is not all good news). Well done, Hagley librarians and archivists.

http://cdm15017.contentdm.oclc.org/

Monday, June 18, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: 37Signals Gets a C Plus


37Signals, founded by three young entrepreneurs in 1999 and based in Chicago, is a privately held company that develops web applications. Its first and still most popular product is Basecamp, which allows collaborative project management over the Internet. The 37Signals About Us page (“Our Story”) is here.


OVERALL GRADE: C Plus
37Signals has a single About Us page with an elegantly laid out timeline, followed by the bios of company leaders and then a list of services offered. These are all good choices for an About Us page, but when the page opens, we have no idea that so much is there. We’d like to see the timeline, bios, and services all appear “above the fold” -- on the opening screen. Subway’s About Us page is a good example.

Accessibility: A
On the Contact Us page we’re given a snail-mail address and an email address, which we greatly prefer to an online email form, since it allows us to keep a copy. The company also offers answers to quick queries via Twitter: a welcome new option.

Products/Services: C
The timeline is elegant, but doesn’t focus enough on the company’s products. Dates in gray mark major innovations on the Net or in technology. The connection between those events and the company milestones, in red, aren’t always obvious. We have seen timelines and company histories that brilliantly tie a company’s past to events on the world scene. This one doesn’t.

In the list of services at the end on this page, we’d like to have teasers that would encourage us to click on the links. If we could see the headings on the Basecamp page we’d be more interested in visiting it, and a direct link to the page that offers a free trial might entice us even more.

Personality: C
The leadership team of 37Signals is Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, plus Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the company’s sole investor. Since Fried is a co-founder of the company, why not quote him on how the company was conceived, what principles it runs on, what services it offers, and what books he’s written? Also worth mentioning is the fact that MIT’s Technology Review named him one of the top 35 innovators in the world under age 35. (We repeat: the Wikipedia article on your company should not be a better source of information than your own About Us page.)


TAKEAWAY
We are fans of breathing space in page layout, but there is too much white space and too little information on this About Us page.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; CorporateHistory.net has no ties to this company.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hometown History from Auburn, NY

It was a delight to be on hand yesterday in "History's Hometown" -- Auburn, New York -- for the dedication of the newly refurbished Emerson Park Pavilion. This community asset has been a meeting place for Auburnians for more than 100 years. In 1944 industrialist Fred L. Emerson donated the land, which he had owned and operated as a park for his employees, to Cayuga County "for the perpetual and free use of Cayuga's citizens for outings and leisurely wholesome enjoyment." The park and pavilion are just a few of Fred Emerson's legacies; he also founded the Fred L. Emerson Foundation, Inc., which celebrates 80 years of "Quiet Philanthropy" this month. CorporateHistory.net is proud to have chronicled that history.

For more on the ceremony, here's a link to the local daily newspaper:
http://auburnpub.com/news/local/community-celebrates-emerson-park/article_5e946cd4-6099-5c7c-b759-4008f562bd0d.html?mode=story

Monday, June 4, 2012

Branding Report from the Disney Institute

Delighted to share a report from writer and fellow ASJA member Rodney J. Moore on his experiences at the Disney Institute. From the very first day I delved into corporate history, I’ve contended that all organizations bear the DNA of their founder. Rod's story confirms my instinct:

“One of my first takeaways was how much Disney believes in storytelling. I knew that going in, but it permeates everything they do. Walt is the foundation of the Disney brand and so we started our course with details about his story. It was fascinating to hear that Walt was influenced by one main person and experience in his childhood. It wasn't his parents. It was his uncle. Walt clearly was an artist at heart so his creativity was boundless. But he had no outlet for it after his family moved to a farm when he was 5. His uncle gave him that outlet by allowing Walt to ride with him on his train. Walt's uncle Mike was an engineer. So Walt had a different adventure every time he rode that train. I think it inspired him to dream and those dreams are what birthed the brand we know today.”

More to come here! Meantime, check out Rod’s blog for additional insights: http://www.rodneyjmoore.com/blog.htm