The New, Progressive “About Us” Page Uses Storytelling

Every Web site has an “About Us” page. Most follow the formula of opening with a corporate boilerplate or brief description, a list of key personnel, and contact information. It sometimes has the dreaded online form, which no one believes will ever reach a real person. And, perhaps the latest press release announcing the organization’s latest greatest work achievement will be posted. In other words, a static web page that does little to differentiate them from others, tell a compelling story or entices the viewer to actually learn something memorable.

However, a few progressive organizations are using their About Us page to share the story of who they are, where they come from, and what makes them special. A few examples:

  • Techsquare. They talk about their origins, the “priesthood,” the kind of people you’ll find at the company and more. They even interject a human voice. Check out their history section for a great example of telling the most important parts of your history without writing a coffee table tome.
  • Bentley. Their descriptions are the closest thing you’ll get to feeling the wind in your hair when driving a Bentley. Their passion shines in their About Us page, telling readers exactly what they stand for and what is important to them.
  • IndieBride. While this About Us page is a little “in your face,” organizations would do well to identify their voice as strongly as the author of this web page.

A quick Google search of  best About Us pages will point you to many more. Take an objective look at your About Us page. What is it saying to potential customers? Does it tell a story? Or just give basic facts leaving the readers to draw their own conclusions?

The Difference Between Storytelling and Messaging

Storytelling and messaging are two different communication disciplines. But, you need both to ensure communications effectiveness.

According to the National Storytelling Association, storytelling is “the art of using language, vocalization, and/or physical  movement and gesture to reveal the elements and images of a story to a specific, live audience.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, messaging is a communication in writing, in speech, or by signals.

Those are good starts in understanding the difference. But, there is more.

The trend in storytelling for corporate and nonprofit work is on the rise. There is a good reason. After all, who doesn’t love a good story? It makes whatever you are seeking to communicate interesting and sometimes even entertaining. “Messaging” on the other hand has gotten a bad rap with many people in the business and nonprofit world believing it is old-school, 1960s Madison Avenue hype where a company makes up what they want people to believe. Maybe bad messaging is that. But, good messaging is far from the old days of marketing manipulation. (See our formula for a powerful message.)

Messaging — the craft of determining what you want to communicate very specifically — is equally important to storytelling.

While stories give a framework or environment for what you are trying to communicate, messages are clear, specific thoughts on what you are seeking to deliver. To sum up, stories give context while messages provide a conclusion.

Conclusions are important. I recently worked with a company comprised of engineers. They were great at giving you all the data and backstory. In other words, they were terrific at telling the story of how they came up with their new technology. The trouble was they assumed whoever they were speaking to would arrive at the same conclusion they had. Some good messaging was needed to support their storytelling.

By all means, use storytelling for your communications endeavors. But, don’t forget the messaging. Again, storytelling adds interest to how you got where you are. But, let your audience know when they’ve arrived. Give them the ending with good solid messaging.