Origin stories have always been my favorite part of a fictional hero’s journey. What happened in the course of this character’s life to lead them to become the hero we know? What motivates their actions? The answers to these questions put the rest of their adventures in context and makes their storyline much more interesting.
And in my opinion, companies with compelling origin stories are equally as fascinating. Origin stories are important to any business, but they’re particularly valuable for social enterprises. That’s because social enterprise companies are seeking to not only make profits, but to also solve a social problem. And similar to the fictional origin stories I’ve always loved, there’s a hero: the founder or founders.Origin stories are important to any business, but they’re particularly valuable for #socents. Click To Tweet
Your social enterprise may be so caught up in meeting your goals and achieving your mission that you haven’t yet been able to sit down and really think through your company’s origin story and shape it so it is easy to articulate to your customers, staff, investors and any other stakeholders. If you haven’t yet, you absolutely should.
Why do you need a compelling company origin story?
A compelling origin story gets people talking. Who doesn’t love to share at a cocktail party that they heard their favorite shoe brand’s founder dropped out of Harvard to start a company that helps people in need?
A good origin story humanizes your brand, brings it down to earth, puts a face behind the logo and demonstratesthat you’re not just in the business for the sake of profits. It also gives your audience a reason why you do what you do and why they should support you in your causeA compelling origin story gets people talking. Click To Tweet
Even the most cynical of consumers can be moved by a touching story of empathy, compassion and the drive to make a difference. So, make sure your reason for being is weaved into your messaging and your origin story is readily available for those who are curious.
How to expertly craft an origin story for your social enterprise
Tell a genuine story
In any conversation about compelling company origin stories, you’ll hear about how, with the help of some PR magic, eBay changed their story from one about a tech titan who wanted to create the “perfect marketplace” to one about an everyday guy who wanted to make it easier for his fiancée to trade Pez dispensers. Don’t be like eBay and just make a story up.
It doesn’t take a lot of extraordinary circumstances to make for a great origin story. For example, think about the story behind B Corp poster child Ben & Jerry’s. The brand had humble beginnings as a homemade ice cream parlor in a converted gas station in Vermont. Because one of their founders had a condition that made it hard to smell, they decided to put big chunks in their flavors for a better mouthfeel. The story is charming and simple, and doesn’t require embellishment.
As a social enterprise, integrity is an especially crucial characteristic to display for your customers. Be honest about your company origin story, and trust that, as an impact-driven company, you won’t need to completely rewrite the truth to make your audience care.As a #socent, integrity is a crucial characteristic to display for your customers. Click To Tweet
Frame your company origin story in a way that aligns with your mission
How do you want your audience to view your brand? As a scrappy startup making the most out of limited resources in order to make the difference you can? As a highly-experienced team who uses profits to share their expertise pro-bono with those who might not be able to afford it otherwise? How you tell the story of your beginnings should set the stage for how you want to be perceived today.
Draft a long version and an abridged version
Even though you know the full, exact story of how your social enterprise began, you should be able to tell a concise, abridged version of your origin story in a couple sentences.
The abridged version of your story that you share on social media or as a quick blurb at cocktail parties and networking events isn’t a watered down version, but instead, it highlights the most important turning point of your origin story. What made you realize you needed to do something, and how did you decide to do it?
This concise version of the story is the one people will share on their own as well, and you can craft key messages to help your brand ambassadors share your origin story.
Share it everywhere
Make sure your employees and investors know the story and make it easily available for customers to learn it. Encourage those customers to share it with their friends and family. This is how you make your company origin story stick and ensure it’s associated with your product offering.
If you share your abridged story on social media, direct those viewers to your website to read a longer-form write-up, view an interactive timeline, a video or some other creative delivery method. Putting that story all out in the open provides transparency and creates customer loyalty.
Your origin story can even be newsworthy. Emphasize it in your public relations media outreach and encourage reporters and influencers to share your story with their audiences as well.Putting your origin story out in the open provides transparency and creates #customer loyalty. Click To Tweet
Talk about your origin story as much as possible –– when appropriate –– to make sure it’s there in your customers’ minds every time they interact with your brand. When they’re considering whether or not to buy your products or use your services, they’ll remember where you started and why you do what you do. In turn, they’ll feel more compelled to act.
What tactics should you use to tell your company origin story?
With our Social Enterprise Marketing Plan Template, you’ll have the starting point for a marketing plan that can help you amplify your story and truly transform your social enterprise’s mission impact.