I believe stories are a key way for internal and external communities to understand an organisation and its culture. I am particularly fond of authentic, real people narrative – ideally with some heritage.
That’s why the news that Californian winemaker, Ernest Gallo has died age 97 caught my attention. The story is that two months after his immigrant Italian father shot dead Gallo’s mother and committed suicide, Ernest and his late brother Julio, began turning the family vineyard in a small town near San Francisco into the world’s largest winemaking empire.
The brothers borrowed $5,900, used a recipe from the local public library and with other family members, started producing wine, making $30,000 in their first year. Today an estimated 75 million cases of Gallo wine are sold under more than 40 brand labels.
The company aimed to “put fine wine on American dinner tables at a price people could afford” and improve the reputation California wine throughout the world. Ernest Gallo died one of the 400 richest Americans, a family worth of $1.3 billion, employing more than 4,600 people and marketing wine in over 90 countries.
There is a nice “heritage” story on the company website although I found the language rather corporate rather than engaging. Another challenge for companies with interesting beginnings is to keep generating new stories. Gallo remains family run in its 3rd generation, and appears to have some sound practices – which could be developed into a more narrative and human style.
For public relations practitioners, such stories help create pictures in the mind and highlight values that many people would recognise and support. In that way, communications can be more engaging and distinctive.