Define your brand story's mission and elements

Business benefits

Create a brand story outline that aligns with your brand and story objectives by mapping out your story’s mission, characters, and elements.

Run a story ideas and story arc brainstorming session to create your story outline. Share any underlying audience research.

Capture your story mission by articulating who your story is for, what it will help them do, and what it will make them feel.


  • Who is this story dedicated to? Consider demographics, psychographics, personas, motivations, and level of subject expertise.
  • What is this story going to help them do? State the mission or end goal of your story, for example, inspiring, educating, or informing.
  • What is this story going to make them feel? Name the universal truth your audience should walk away feeling, for example, fear, anger, joy, sadness, or disgust.

For example, this story mission, inspired by Aerie, focuses on empowerment: Empower active women at any age to feel confident in their body.

Add detail to your story audience with demographics, psychographics, personas, motivations, and level of subject expertise.

Understanding your story audience helps make sure your story achieves its mission. Consider whether your audience should be classified as:

  • Novice: First exposure to the subject, but doesn’t
    want oversimplification.
  • Generalist: Aware of the topic, but looking for an
    overview and major themes.
  • Managerial: In-depth, actionable understanding of
    intricacies and interrelationships with access to
  • Expert: more exploration and discovery and less
    storytelling with great detail.
  • Executive: Only has time to glean the significance
    and conclusions of weighted probabilities.

Define who the key characters are, including their needs and wants. Your audience is also a character in your story.

For example, potential characters for your story could be:

  • Active
  • Passive
  • Primary
  • Protagonist
  • Secondary
  • Hero
  • Sidekick
  • Antagonist
  • Villain.

List out your characters’ needs, wants, and feelings at the beginning of the story, and then do the same for the end of the story. Note how the answers change, as a result of the events of the story.

Summarize your plot and conclusion by adding more detail to the story arc and defining one key takeaway from the story. Fill out a story outline template that fits your story structure.

Write down a summary of your plot and conclusion. Use examples to inspire and help you through this defining process.

Visually map out the character journey of your story. Define how the story will begin, and introduce the characters and plot.

Include how the story starts, the setting in which the story takes place, how your main character is introduced, and how your main character feels at the beginning.

Answer the what, why, when, and where of each character as they move toward the climax to add depth to your story.


  • What is happening in the story before the climax?
  • Why are the characters doing what they are doing?
  • When is this taking place? Where is this story taking place?
  • When does the main character start to change or search for a solution?
  • What is the conflict?

Think of your audience as a character as well.

Map out the climax and its impact on each character.


  • What is the climax?
  • Is the main character surprised by the climax, or was the lead up to it gradual?
  • How have the characters changed from the beginning to immediately after the climax?

Outline how each character evolves after the climax.


  • How do the characters feel after the climax?
  • How do they look?
  • What are they doing?

Show how each character arrives at the story conclusion.


  • What change occurs that leads to the story conclusion?
  • Did someone or something help the characters reach the conclusion?

Keep in mind that people might stumble on these playbooks as standalone resources – you can’t assume that they’ll always start from the hub page as they would with classic course material. So we need a way to explain what they should have done already.

The simplest option might actually be to move this step back to the hub. Not every step in a hub needs to link to a playbook. That way you’re not starting this playbook with a step that disorients anyone who’s discovering it from anywhere but the hub.

This needs more explanation:

  • What sort of structures work for brand stories?
  • What are the elements that a good template needs?

The linked page is talking about fiction novel templates? I don’t see the relevance.

Hang on. I’m confused. I’m used to talking about a brand story as the story a brand tells about itself and how it – or its products – came to be. But this seems to be using the term as a story a brand tells? I think these examples that you linked from Brainstorm ideas for your story are good brand stories because they talk about things the brand itself is achieving or has achieved.

I don’t know if this is an issue with the source course material or whether it’s over-generalized storytelling instructions, but I think this whole playbook needs a sharper focus. It would help to have a single example to follow through the whole way; preferably a brand story that a lot of people are familiar with, like Apple or Microsoft.

I’ve made a number of edits that I think strengthen this playbook. The course material is not as conducive as some others to this format, though the slides provide a bit more guidance that I have added here.

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