In the past year or so, there’s been a lot of buzz about the power of storytelling for businesses. Sometimes it feels more like excitement around talking about it than actually doing it. A recent piece here had the intriguing suggestion that when it comes to telling your sustainability story, the messier the better. In a nutshell, don’t just show off the shiny finish to your journey. Let people in on what’s going on along the way. Where are you facing challenges?
Yesterday I encountered what is in my experience the best example to date of how to strike the delicate balance of vulnerable, informative and promotional: AHA!, out of Vancouver, Washington is a firm whose focus is helping companies tell their stories, with a recent emphasis on CSR reports.
In a business space increasingly full of companies trying to get your attention in numbingly similar ways, AHA! deftly talks about their work while demonstrating it, telling its own story about their journey to becoming a more sustainable company. In doing so AHA! walks the sustainable talk they help their clients express.
But clever words on a page are only part of what makes this sustainability story excel: It’s how AHA! presents them and creatively expands the confines of the written word that makes this an excellent example for others to learn from.
It starts with AHA! laying out the words themselves in a way that keeps your eyes moving, not simply swimming the typical left to right laps of columns of text. People read online in many different ways, and this story has the key points markedly bigger, with other aspects of interest in varying sizes, so the skimmers in the audience can grasp them quickly. Fortunately, the rest of the text is compelling enough for others to read.
What it shares is something that many companies can relate to: AHA!’s journey to becoming a practitioner of what it helps others preach, sustainable business, with useful context of what sort of impact their efforts have made, and what such efforts, taken collectively, have the potential to do.
What’s happening here is genius: In the process of telling its story, AHA! also demonstrates what such work for clients might look like, while at the same time providing added value to the reader.
This is enhanced by thoughtfully strewn about items such as a Coke can that “spills” the upfront cost savings AHA! got from dropping bottled and canned drinks at their office. Taken together, AHA! shows how it can take what could easily have been a dry telling of yet another company greening and brings it to life, literally. See if you can keep from double taking when you come across an ant crawling on the screen!
Readers: Who else is doing an effective job telling their sustainability story? What makes it work for you?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.