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The Power of a Good Company Story

Most of us are suckers for a good story, whether it's in the form of a great movie, a must-see TV series, an "unputdownable" book, a heated political campaign or a come-from-behind sports team.

At Precision Marketing Group, a large part of the work we do with our clients is to help them answer the question (as a company), What's your story? We spend a lot of time uncovering our clients' company stories so that we can help them tell a compelling, fact-based story to prospects, customers, employees, investors, the press, and other key audiences.

Why do we ask our clients to invest in a good story? Because facts tell, but stories sell.

Here are some examples of great stories and what you can learn from them in creating and telling your company story.

"Slumdog Millionaire"
This is the "little movie that could" - winning eight Academy Awards last Sunday, including Best Picture. Even if you never saw the movie - which you should, by the way - you could not help but feel good about the success enjoyed by this group of charming, unassuming and talented cast and crew.

What is amazing about "Slumdog" is that it was not just the movie that captivated audiences, it was also the project itself (originally slated to go straight to DVD) and, ultimately, the entire country of India.

Lesson for your story: If your company can tell a "feel good" story of success, it can serve you well. Are you a "little company that could?"

Harry Potter
J.K. Rowling's 7-book fantasy series had children of all ages, including why-read-a-book-when-I-can-see-the-movie teens, dressing in costume and waiting in long lines outside bookstores for midnight releases. What was so engrossing about the story of Harry Potter?

You could point to many things - the plot twists or suspenseful cliffhangers, for example - but the memorable characters are what kept readers shelling out $25 for each hardcover.

Lesson for your story: Is there a wise Dumbledore or precocious Hermione on your team? What are the unique things that your managers and employees bring to the table? Think about how you can weave these skills, talents and qualities into your company story successfully. Remember that people do business with people, so let your audience get to know your team.

2008 Presidential Campaign
The most recent presidential race had it all - twists and turns, unforgettable characters, and intense competition. Each candidate had to consistently and clearly explain what differentiated them from the opposing candidate.

Lesson for your story: Make sure your company story includes how you are different - and of course, better - than your competition. You don't have to badmouth competitors by name to showcase your strengths, either. Separating yourself from the crowd can be tastefully and effectively.

2004 Red Sox
Every Boston Red Sox fan - and many other Americans - watched anxiously as the Red Sox roared back from a 3-game deficit in the American League Championship Series against the rival Yankees. The team won four straight games over the course of four sleepless nights to earn a berth in the World Series, where they swept the St. Louis Cardinals to become World Champions.

So many things made this story special - the first World Series win since 1918, beating the Yankees in dramatic fashion to get there, injured pitcher Curt Schilling taking the mound wearing a bloody sock. Overall, though, it was the fact that the Sox overcame such adversity to win the ALCS. No team had ever come back to win after three straight losses.

Lesson for your story: Has your company faced adversity successfully? When the odds were stacked against your business, how did you stick it out and come out a winner? Hearing about someone's determination in the face of long odds is always inspirational, so if you have a tale to tell in this area, share it.

Madison-DeKalb High School Basketball Game
This story made it to ABC News last week, as Charlie Gibson honored an Illinois high school basketball team as his "Person of the Week." When the Milwaukee Madison Knights and the DeKalb Barbs, arch rivals, tipped off, Madison's co-captain Johntell Franklin was not in the gym, nor was he on the roster.

He had spent the day at his mother's bedside at a local hospital as she died from cancer. That night, when the game started, no one - including his coach - expected him to show up. His mother had just died. But he wanted to be with his friends, and he wanted to play.

When he arrived, his coach put him in the game, which resulted in an automatic technical foul since he was not on the roster. DeKalb's coach asked the referee not to call the technical, telling him that he didn't want the free throws. But the referee stuck to the rules and the DeKalb player was forced to hit the court for two free throws.

He missed them both. On purpose. In a huge, close game. Against his team's arch rival. Because his coach asked him to. And because he knew it was the right thing to do.

Lesson for your story: This incredible example of sportsmanship and humanity touched everyone who witnessed it. Does your company have examples of times that it put people before profits or a customer's success before its own objectives? Sharing these stories, preferably by having someone else tell them (maybe Charlie Gibson will take notice?), can have a powerfully positive impact on your business.