Jason Dressel, Managing Director at History Factory
The coronavirus pandemic has created questions among senior executives around the world they’ve never needed to address. One place they’ve been looking: Their counterparts at other corporations. And with the recent launch of History Factory’s COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project, there is a living archive of corporate responses to the pandemic, giving executives a window into what peer companies are doing now and providing a resource that may serve as a guide in future crises. Material is already available from Airbnb, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Marriott International, Inc., Southwest, Starbucks Corporation, Uber Technologies, Inc., and The Walt Disney Company.
In an interview with CorpGov, History Factory Managing Director Jason Dressel explained that the project sources content from large enterprises that have taken thoughtful approaches to COVID response. The intended audience is mainly executives and communicators, but the project should also be a valuable resource for journalists, teachers, students and anyone else who has an interest in learning how businesses and industry leaders are responding. The full interview is below:
CorpGov: What was the inspiration for the COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project?
Mr. Dressel: As the scope and breadth of this crisis became evident, we realized that it’s obviously a significant chapter in modern history that’s being written. Like so many companies, we felt a calling to do something during these times that utilized our unique experiences and competencies for the greater good. For us, that meant focusing on companies and brands through the lens of storytelling, archives-building, research and technology. The project is an amalgamation of that.
CorpGov: Is the project focused on any particular company category or profile? Or is at any size and shape?
Mr. Dressel: One of the unique aspects of this moment is that it’s truly a universally shared experience that is affecting companies of all sizes and in any sector. While professionals in any sized company can hopefully use the site for research and to inspire ideas applicable to them, the criteria for content is large enterprises. We’ve defined that as Fortune 500-sized companies including the 100 largest private enterprises and the 50 largest trade associations that represent those firms and their industries. These are the types of organizations who are our clients, and who we know and understand best, so it made sense for us to focus on this segment of the private sector.
CorpGov: Who is the intended audience for the project?
Mr. Dressel: First and foremost, the site’s for our clients and others in our community, which is mostly communicators, marketers and leaders in the c-suite. We’ve heard from our clients and from our involvement in organizations like the Arthur W. Page Society that leaders are constantly wanting to stay abreast of what their competitors, peers and companies they admire are doing. We also hope that the site can be a rich and valuable resource for journalists, teachers, students and anyone else who has an interest in learning how businesses and industry leaders are responding.
CorpGov: Does the project consider both original content and material that’s already been published?
Mr. Dressel: Criteria for content is focused on primary sources published directly by the organizations and news media coverage in credible sources. We are not including opinion editorials, but we are planning on creating content based on insights we can glean from what we are collecting, and we encourage others to do so as well. Any content we create will be on History Factory’s website and not the project site. Also, the content the project is collecting is intended to document decisions and actions by organizations versus more passive general coverage.
CorpGov: Is the project’s material intended to live on after the world moves past immediate COVID-19 concerns and where will people find it?
Mr. Dressel: Absolutely! The History Factory philosophy that permeates everything we do is to start with the future and work back. The starting premise for the project was to imagine: what kind of information will people want to be able to easily find years from now? The archivists and curators on the project helped formulate that approach for how we set the criteria and outlined the framework for the collections. We want this to be a resource that is useful and relevant now, but also for the years to come at www.c19corporatememory.org.