Narrative Cohesion: Use Your Brandscript to Connect

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Building a Storybrand" by Donald Miller. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is narrative cohesion? How can you fill the narrative void and ensure your storybrand is on track?

Narrative cohesion is the process of making sure your whole company and your mission follow the storybrand. Narrative cohesion is an important part of building your storybrand.

Read more about narrative cohesion and how it works.

Narrative Cohesion

Instead of promoting your mission statement, try to create narrative cohesion (Shortform term). If your company has narrative cohesion, the customer, company, and team’s stories all align, employees are engaged, and the organization is successful. 

Filling the Void

To fill a narrative void and create culture and engagement, you’ll follow a two-step process:

  1. Share the customer-centered story you developed using the SB7 Framework with everyone in the organization.
  2. Create and implement an employee-centered story. 
Step #1: Share the Customer-Centered Story

To implement the customer-centered story throughout the organization, you’ll use the StoryBrand culture program. This program has five steps:

  1. Write a brandscript.
  2. Evaluate the company culture.
  3. Create a custom plan for implementation.
  4. Create internal communication material that aligns with the implementation plan.
  5. Create a team to improve the culture.

(Shortform note: The author doesn’t explain these steps in further detail. For more information about culture, read our summaries of Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code or Patrick M. Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.)

After completing the steps, everyone at the company will use the same brandscript and can succinctly explain the brand’s story. All the different divisions and departments will be connected and everyone will understand how their role fits into the story. For example, corporate communication becomes an empowered mission and engaging messages, social media shares brand sentiment, and local marketing becomes targeted.

Extended Example: Fast-Food Chain

Ben Ortlip, a StoryBrand director, worked with a fast-food chain to improve their story. The chain was doing well but Ortlip thought they could be doing better. As he toured the company, he noticed that their operations, product, and marketing were solid. The problem was that the company was complacent and had lost its plot.

To get it back, Ortlip helped the company create a narrative and share it with all stakeholders. They created a video curriculum and organized a convention, retreats, and events such as beach concerts at which attendees discussed the narrative. Once people understood the company’s story, they re-engaged and the company’s growth increased 25% in under three years.

Step #2: Create an Employee-Centered Story

In this story, the employee or team will act as the hero and the company’s leadership as the guide. Compensation, events, and professional development are the plan the guide gives the heroes to help them overcome the problem (disengagement) and achieve the positive stakes (narrative cohesion). (Employee engagement is based on the employee value proposition—what the employee gets from their workplace, such as compensation, flexibility, and the chance to star in a story.)

Leaders, like companies, often think they want to be the heroes, but the outcome they want actually comes from their acting as the guide. The guide is the competent, respected character.

Culture at Cohesive Workplaces

Recall the plotless workplace that stems from a narrative void. At a company with a story, the onboarding goes very differently:

  • A prospective employee has heard about the company before she even applies for a job. Everyone who interacts with the company, whether as an employee or a customer, likes it.
  • In the first interview, the prospective employee hears the same story—everyone likes the company. The interviewer presents working at the company like an adventure. The prospective employee, were she to come aboard, wouldn’t just be getting a job, she’d be cast in a role that would transform her.
  • In the next interviews, with other people at the company, the prospective employee hears the same story again and realizes she needs to be part of it.
  • On her first day, she meets multiple people at the company including a facilitator and the CEO, both of whom tell her the story. The onboarding focuses on the customer and the fact the customer is the hero and the company wants to make the customer’s life better.
  • Over the next few years, the employee never gets complacent. She regularly learns new things and her coworkers and customers are part of a community.
  • Headhunters offer her jobs but she always turns them down.

Employing both customer- and employee-targeted stories not only increases an organization’s success, it improves the lives of everyone involved. Every time a customer’s life gets better, the world gets a little bit better. 

Narrative Cohesion: Use Your Brandscript to Connect

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  • How storytelling enhances brand marketing
  • Why you should make the consumer the hero of your brand's story
  • The 7 elements that make marketing work

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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