Welcome to, a public project to delve in to the performance differences between storytelling companies and storydoing companies, managed by co:collective.

What is

The premise of the project is that there are two kinds of companies in the world today: storytelling companies that convey the story of their brand, business or product by telling that story, usually through PR or paid advertising; and storydoing companies that consciously convey their story through direct action. Storydoing companies use their core story as an organizing principle for activities throughout the company: new product development, recruiting, compensation, partnerships, as well as any communication that they create. Our hypothesis is that storydoing companies spend fewer dollars on paid media, and the dollars they do spend work harder which makes storydoing companies more efficient. This site contains the results of a first round of analysis of 42 different publicly traded companies. We’d love for you to have a look at the methodology, the criteria, and the results, and let us know what you think.

The six attributes of Storydoing companies


  1. You have a story.
  2. The story defines an ambition beyond commercial aspiration.
  3. The story is understood and cared about by the entire company.


  1. The story is being used to drive action throughout the company.
  2. You have defined a few iconic, transformative actions to focus on.
  3. People outside the company are engaging with and participating in the story.


We applied the criteria that define a Storydoing company to a wide sample of candidates, to create the list of seven companies that in our judgment best met the criteria. For each selected company we then identified a sample of five storytelling peers that did not meet the criteria.

Companies analyzed

  • Storydoing
  • Storytelling


  • Target
  • Sears
  • JC Penney
  • Dillard's
  • Saks
  • Macy's


  • Walt Disney
  • Time Warner
  • News Corporation
  • Viacom
  • Comcast
  • CBS

Food & Beverage

  • Starbucks
  • Dunkin Brand Groups
  • Wendy's Company
  • Burger King
  • Panera
  • Cosi

Electronic Payments

  • American Express
  • JP Morgan & Chase
  • Mastercard
  • Discover
  • Fidelity
  • Visa

Consumer Electronics

  • Apple
  • Panasonic
  • Samsung
  • Toshiba
  • Sony
  • Dell


  • Jet Blue
  • American Airlines
  • United
  • US Airways
  • Skywest
  • Delta

Information & Technology

  • IBM
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Cisco
  • Oracle
  • SAP
  • CSC


We then compared the performance of the seven Storydoing companies against the 35 storytelling companies. Our analysis combined financial data, social media data, and paid media data.

Financial data
We pulled publicly available data on 42 listed companies over the course of five years. Key metrics included: revenue, operating income, media spend, share price, P/E ratio.
Social media data
We used the social listening platform Radian6 to audit the social profile of each company, assessing its frequency of mention and the overall sentiment of mentions.
Media spend data
We reached out to partners at IPG's Mediabrands to collect paid media spend data from 2007 to 2011.

Our analysis so far suggests that Storydoing companies outperform their storytelling peers in a number of ways.

Storydoing companies perform
better financially.

Annualized revenue growth rate (2007-2011)
Annualized revenue growth rate (2007-2011): Storytelling 6.1% Storydoing 10.4%
Annualized operating income growth rate (2007-2011)
Annualized operating income growth rate (2007-2011): Storytelling 7.1% Storydoing 16.1%

Storydoing companies create more social engagement.

Number of social media mentions (2008-2011)
Number of social media mentions (2008-2011)
Growth rate of social media mentions (2008-2012)
Growth rate of social media mentions (2008-2011)
Sentiment of social media mentions (2008-2012)
Sentiment of social media mentions (2008-2012)

Storydoing companies spend less
on media.

Media spend as % of annual revenue (2007-2011)
Media spend as % of annual revenue (2007-2011)

Storydoing company
valuations have grown faster.

Annualized share price growth (2007-2011)
Annualized share price growth (2007-2011)

Are you a

Are you a Storydoing Company?

Do you have a story?

Form a multi-department working team to lead development of a story.

Does that story define an ambition beyond commercial aspiration?

Form a multi-department working team to evolve or redefine the story, broadening its relevance.

Is the story understood and cared about by your entire company?

Create an employee engagement and training program, directed by managers across departments.

Is the story being used to drive action throughout the company?

Start working regularly with individual functions to define and prioritize actions based on the story.

Have you defined a few iconic, transformative actions to focus on?

Define and prioritize the few, iconic actions that will make your story real in the world.

Are people outside the company engaging with and participating in the story?

Define an external participation program across social, PR and communications. Re-examine the story if engagement remains low.

Congratulations! You are a world class storydoer.

Join the conversation.

Ask a question

We're eager to answer any questions about the project. Reach out on Twitter.

Frequently asked questions

How did you determine which companies were storydoing companies and which were storytelling companies?

We developed the 6 attributes of storydoing companies based on our collective experience. Those became the qualifying criteria. It is worth noting that very few companies fulfill all the criteria—most companies exist somewhere along a scale of pure storyteller to pure storydoer. The companies we selected fulfill all or most of the six criteria.

How did you address the possibility of confirmation bias in your results?

Confirmation bias is always a danger. To avoid it, we actively looked for financial results, social media data, as well as for news articles, PR releases, or personal accounts that altered or disproved our results. But the most important tactic we’ve employed to mitigate confirmation bias is to post our findings publicly to ask others to challenge us and point the way to any data we may have missed.

Why only 7 storydoing companies, vs. 35 storytelling companies?
While storydoing companies are becoming more numerous, they are still comparatively rare. Particularly publicly traded storydoing companies—the only kind that provide public access to their financial data. As we continue digging and investigate additional categories and industries we’re hoping to discover more. If you run across candidates we’d be happy to add them to our list. Please email them to
How can I share my data with the project?

We'd love to include more companies in our analysis. Particularly those that are privately held. To share your data, email us at

I don’t agree with some of your thinking. Or my question wasn’t answered here. How can I reach you?

Feel free to reach out on twitter @co #storydoing to share your thoughts publicly. We will be sure to respond. You can also email us privately at:

True Story, by Ty Montague