History vs. Story

When a company is asked to provide their story, they typically tell their company’s history, but what people really want is their company’s story. What is the difference between history and story? Let’s look at some examples:

Company History A

Founded by field service experts in 2001, Field Service Management Software offers solutions that enable end-to-end field service operations. Our comprehensive suite of integrated products provides intelligent and automated field service scheduling, partner management and real-time wireless communications for mobile field service resources.

Company History B

Our story starts three years ago with two brothers, two backpacks, and one wild adventure…an adventure that would open their eyes to healthy foods around the world. With their hearts set on exploration, Luke and Matt Geddie ventured through Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, India, and Vietnam with a desire to see and experience everything nature had to provide.

Both of these examples are stories about how the company started. It may be interesting to some, but it fails in one big way: it doesn’t make the reader the hero of the story. Let’s see how we could write it differently:

Company Story A

Originally developed for one of the largest companies in the world, this exclusive software is now available for small business owners like you. Get the power of enterprise-grade field management software you deserve at a price your company can afford.

Company Story B

When her son brought home a new type of coconut oil from Vietnam, she immediately noticed a difference. As a holistic practitioner who understood the power of raw, alkaline foods, she wanted to do everything she could to help other people like her get access to this new type of oil.

History vs. Story

What’s the difference between the ‘company history’ examples and the ‘company story’ examples? When companies are forced to fill out “About Us” pages and description boxes on social media, it’s easy for them to state facts, but what people identify with is stories – but in particular, stories the target market can identify with.

In the first example, the software company is trying to invoke trust by saying they’ve been in business “since 2001”, but in software-years, that’s an eternity and it wouldn’t really matter if they had said “2011”. In the ‘story’ version, the focus is shifted more towards the value that the customer now can access. Something has been unlocked for them, something that’s precious and rare. They are now the hero for recognizing this exclusive opportunity to get “enterprise-grade software” that’s just recently been made available for small business owners like them.

In the second example, the coconut oil company is trying to make the two, young founders be the hero of the ‘company history’ by telling about their exotic travels through Southeast Asia, but this has nothing to do with their typical customer: a holistically-minded mother. In the ‘story’ example, the orientation of the story is flipped to be told from the perspective of the mother, who is more like the target audience. This helps readers identify with the story and they begin to think about how they can be a part of that story – to help spread the word about this new oil.

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