Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New Blog

Art courtesy George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. 
Retrieved from
Starting January 4, 2016, we invite all and readers -- and everyone interested in corporate history and business anniversaries -- to follow us at our blog's new home,

The team sends best wishes for a superb New Year's weekend!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Microsoft Stories
Echoes the classic company print magazine but optimized for online reading.
Remember company magazines and employee newsletters? All of us corporate history researchers and archivists have paged through them. They proliferated through the 20th century as the chief means of internal and external communications, and they remain a source of memory-keeping for companies without formal archives or annual reports. These publications were usually quite good, with news and features by top-notch writers (often journos who jumped ship) and strong photography to match. The Microsoft Stories blog is today's version of these mags: the requisite C-suite foreword (Brad Smith's "In the Cloud We Trust" is as long as a keynote speech and may have been one), numerous well-written profiles, and clever cartoons by Hugh McLeod that I particularly enjoyed (example below). Compared to 20th century print publications Microsoft Stories actually goes one better, as it can function as a recruitment tool as well. My only cavil is that it may offer too much of a good thing, at least in one place. The home page scrolls down to offer dozens of articles. I'd rather have a pull-down list of extras to choose from. But, all in all, a great example of corporate storytelling.

From cartoonist Hugh MacLeod’s "illustrated guide to life
inside Microsoft," part of the Microsoft Stories site

Monday, December 7, 2015

Oral history of a 1950s company town

Norm and Betty Jo Anderson, Piketon, Ohio 2015.
Credit: Lewis Wallace,
Kudos to Lewis Wallace of for a fascinating oral history of Piketon, Ohio, which is struggling with Cold War era nuclear cleanup. It was once the quintessential company town. Great use of voices, especially those of Norm and Betty Jo Anderson. Norm: 
“It’s hard to tell people of the magnitude of those buildings,” [The one he worked in had 33 acres to a floor.] "And those were concrete floors. Can you imagine pouring 33 acres of concrete?” Now they're demolishing it.
Nuclear cleanup work sustains ailing Ohio town |

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Turning Customers Into Cultists

Illustration (c) Matt Chase from The Atlantic, December 2014
"Turning Customers Into Cultists" by Derek Thompson ran in The Atlantic and is
well worth a read or re-read. It explains why the release of a new iPhone rouses buyers to "squat for hours outside the nearest Apple store like Wiccans worshipping before Stonehenge" (ha!). Thompson also explores how brands are learning to cultivate identity and community in their corporate storytelling -- not quite to the extent of cult-ivating, we hope.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

150 Years at Shaw University

Kudos to Shaw University, the US's first historically black college, on its upcoming 150th anniversary. Shaw has obviously put time and thought into a far-reaching campaign. Business anniversary tip: These key elements, highlighted on a dedicated section of Shaw's  website, are worth emulating:
  • Timeline with good photos and visuals
  • Invitation to alums and friends to Share Your Story
  • Events such as a 150 Voices concert, Bear Witness gathering, Founders' Convocation, and gala dinner dance  
  • Blount Street Mural Project in the surrounding community
  • Invitation to donate--straightforward, well-written--a must for nonprofits
The only thing that may be missing is a print component. Is there a book or publication to mark this momentous landmark? I'm especially curious because Shaw has been open to all races, creeds, and genders from Day One, a most unusual attribute for a college founded in 1865. (The photo below shows the class of 1907. My own alma mater, Rutgers College, was founded in 1766 but did not admit women until 1972.) Shaw alums include New York State's first black legislator, Edward A. Johnson (class of 1891), pioneering pilot and flight instructor Ida Van Smith (class of 1939), and Angie Brooks, president of the UN General Assembly (class of 1950).