I didn’t disagree with a word that consultant Ty Montague wrote on the Harvard Business Review blog last month, about how it doesn’t do much good for company to tell lots of stories in advertising or content marketing if you
don’t have a central story that holds the whole corporate narrative together.
Here’s Montague’s formula for what he calls a “storydoing” company (as opposed to a mere “storytelling” company):
1. They have a story
2. The story is about a larger ambition to make the world or people's lives better
3. The story is understood and cared about by senior leadership outside of marketing
4. That story is being used to drive tangible action throughout the company: product development, HR policies, compensation, etc.
5. These actions add back up to a cohesive whole
6. Customers and partners are motivated to engage with the story and are actively using it to advance their own stories
He names some “storydoing” companies who his research shows are benefiting from their self-actualized ways: Target, Walt Disney, Starbucks, American Express, Apple, Jet Blue and IBM. I’m not sure why Southwest Airlines didn’t make the list … and I can think of a few more.
How about G.E.? Coca-Cola? UPS! Apple? (Oh, he already has Apple.)
I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. But the point is, if you can’t count these “storydoing” companies on two hands, you can definitely count them on four.
And what exactly does Montague expect the marketers at the rest of the world’s companies to do about it? How can they transform their companies from the brand embodiment of shallow, yarn-spinning raconteur-salesmen into central characters in socially relevant, self-actualized Homerian epics of their own devising?
Can he name a single traditional “storytelling company” that has made itself into a true “storydoing company”?
I asked him, via Twitter. He said G.E., Amex, Nike and the DeBeers diamond company are in the process of turning themselves into storydoing companies.
I pointed out that these are companies that already have compelling stories. They’re merely trying to recapture their essential storydoingness.
I asked him if it’s possible for a company without a compelling story to start from scratch.
Yes, Montague said. And that’s when things got a little gooey. Give me a day to clean myself up, and I’ll tell you what happened next.