Most companies have moved on from the corporate line to the corporate story, but they still fail to connect with customers and clients because their words don't ring genuine.
Toeing the corporate line faded into disuse because customers and employees increasingly blew off rote recitation of claims that seemed more spun than truthful. It is harder in the digital age to pull the wool over someone's eyes than it is to be unmasked as a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Corporate storytelling can be more compelling because people like to listen to stories, a habit formed since early childhood. But customers can tell the difference between real stories and fairy tales. If the corporate story doesn't match the real corporate persona, then the story turns to pixie dust.
The irony is that most companies have good stories to tell. Their problem is failing to look for them.
Many corporate employees, acting on their own or with encouragement from their managers, do the right thing by customers and often go above and beyond what is expected. Telling those stories puts a personal face on a company and speaks to its core values.
When you tout a story about exceptional service or product quality, it better be true. People may dismiss a self-serving corporate line, but they are less forgiving for a misleading or inaccurate testimonial.
Corporate storytelling needs to be authentic, not fiction. You don't need to inflate the truth; it will speak for itself. The right story, told well, is an amazing marketing tool in an advertisement or on a website.
Start the new year off right by asking your sales force or other front-line workers for stories about what makes them proud to work for your company. You will be pleasantly surprised and perhaps even overwhelmed. The best stories they tell will warm your heart and impress your customers. And it will say a lot that you took the time to discover the stories in the first place.