4Transforming Business with Storytelling

In 2008, General Electric's senior vice president of marketing (and soon to be chief marketing officer) Beth Comstock faced a big challenge. The global economy was tanking. The company's stock was plummeting. It had developed a reputation as stodgy and out-of-touch.

Comstock thought that this reputation was crazy. GE made some of the most exciting inventions in the world, from jet engines to solar generators. It had a unique, startup-esque culture—rare for a Fortune 500 company. This was part of its commitment to maintaining the spirit of invention that Thomas Edison had infused in the company 130 years prior. But no one outside of GE really knew about that. Comstock realized that needed to change.

But how? The answer, she realized, was that they had to do a better job of telling their story.

For the previous 28 months, Comstock had been running digital marketing for NBC Universal, the company responsible behind hits like Jurassic Park and 30 Rock. Perhaps taking a page from NBCU's book could help turn GE's reputation around, Comstock thought. Instead of thinking like a marketer, GE could solve its problem by thinking like a media company. Like a storyteller.

Comstock and her team got to work. They launched a blog called GE Reports, which documented the stories behind the company's innovations around the world—everything from brain scanners to high-speed trains. They partnered with artists to make EDM songs out of jet engine sounds, and ...

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