BC tip: Total – Corporate history wiki

A French energy company uses a wiki to personalise its corporate history.

BC tip - Total.png

The Feature

‘WikiTotal: Your Stories, Our History’ is a wiki page for employees, former employees and anyone who has had dealings with the company in its nine-decade history to share memories.

Promoted on the corporate site’s home page and within the history section, the wiki already has several contributions, called ‘testimonials’, including images and short narratives in English and French. There are six categories – Countries, Activities, Brands, People, Products and Periods.

The wiki is billed as part of the company’s ‘One Total’ initiative (‘expanding to include our history’).

The Takeaway

History is always more accessible when it focuses on people, and the Total history wiki is an interesting attempt to inject personality in an area of the website that can end up as a dry recitation of mergers and acquisitions.

With the focus on employees, the wiki combines internal and external communications – employees and jobseekers are likely to find it interesting. It is also a chance for the company to reinforce its values through personal stories.

It will be interesting to see how Total develops the idea and integrates it into the main corporate site. The strength of a wiki is the expansive and spontaneous feel, but content can quickly become unwieldy and vary in quality. If the digital team manages to incorporate the most interesting contributions into the website’s history section, perhaps leaving the wiki as a feature for browsing, it could be a useful example to follow.


BC tip: Obama.org - Making digital history

The Obama Foundation’s online timeline about Barack Obama’s life could provide inspiration for corporate digital history features.

The Feature

Obama.org is a new website set up last week by the Obama Foundation to raise money and attract sponsorship ideas for the former US president’s planned ‘Presidential Center’ in Chicago.

‘Our story’ is a section on the site looking back at Mr Obama’s life and time in the White House. It is available to browse as a chronological timeline or by eight chapters from ‘Chicago: Where it began’ to ‘Our first tech president’.

The Takeaway

Former President Obama will no doubt have more dedicated readers than most large companies or organizations, but the innovative ‘Our story’ has a lot of ideas that could be adapted for a corporate history feature.

The structure is clever, in that it allows for scrolling through from start to finish or dipping in and out of the eight chapters and multiple ‘milestones’, which are discreet elements such as ‘President Obama Delivered His Farewell Address’. The chapters are interlocking, and ‘related milestones’ are frequently suggested to send readers off in different directions.

The layout is clean and the photography striking, with plenty of multimedia (video and audio), embedded tweets, pull quotes and calls to action at the end of chapters. All politics aside of course, there is plenty here to inspire.


BC tip: Yara - Impressive timeline

A history timeline has a strong narrative style and makes effective use of archive material.

The Feature

‘The History of Yara’, a feature on the Norwegian fertiliser’s corporate website, has a concise overview and 14 sections, which include ‘Our History at a glance’ and summaries of different eras, eg 1900-1905, 1920-1939.

The sections are laid out so visitors can browse for an overview, or read more deeply as required. For example, ‘1900-1905’ has a paragraph introduction, then summary boxes with links to six longer articles, with more detail on the era. The summary boxes and stories are illustrated with archive images.

The Takeaway

The feature stands out for its narrative style, which tells the story almost like a novel. For example, the article, ‘A little bit of Norway – and more’, starts with: ‘The country was hungry not only for renewal and impulses, but also for symbols of new and better times ahead.’

Interesting details and techniques also bring the company’s history to life. For example, the fact that Nitrogen fertilizer is ‘Norgessalpeter’ in Norwegian. Or the use of dialogue in ‘Our History at a glance’: ‘In the course of the dinner [between the company founders] Eyde said: “What I want is the most powerful electrical discharge on earth…” to which Birkeland replied: “This I can get for you!”

Later articles have links to other material on the website, such as the new CEO’s biography. It is a rich resource, telling Yara’s story with literary panache; and is effective without using elaborate technology.