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Chapter 10 | Narrative Guidebook

Writing It Up

What's a narrative for?

A narrative that can be understood and discussed by anyone in your organization is a powerful tool that can guide decisions, inform strategy and align stakeholders. It can also be used as a 'seed' for messaging (though it's not intended for public audiences in its raw form).

Writing it up

Weave the elements of your narrative together into something concise, clear and compelling.

To write up your narrative, you’ll combine the various elements that we’ve covered in this Guidebook.

Remember that the purpose of the narrative is to establish a foundation for your brand's identity, decisions, and relationships.

Watch out for the urge to try to convince people you are right. The best narratives don’t sell people on anything. They create a connection and flow in which people naturally see themselves.

The narrative is saying:

  • What your purpose is—for your owners, your employees and a Shared Purpose you have with those outside your company
  • How your products and services contribute to a Shared Purpose
  • Who you are as a network of stakeholders
  • What you are co-creating that is valuable to the world
  • Why someone would want to be a part of your network
  • Why it makes sense for you to approach your purpose the way you do
  • How everyone relates to each other around your purpose

Create a seed document

Create a document that outlines your narrative components and serves as the basis for other communications.

We call it a seed document because it serves as the basis for many other kinds of expression.

Remember that this is not supposed to be messaging or ad copy. Don’t worry about coming up with a tagline or something that can go on your website. Just focus on distilling the essence and heart of your narrative.

Your seed document should include three versions of your narrative:

  • Summary: a one-page collection of all the elements described in this Guidebook.
  • Presentation ensures it can be delivered by others.
  • Prose ensures that your narrative can be understood by stakeholders without having to explain the components or process you went through to create it.

Presentation vs. Prose

The presentation format usually starts with some kind of observation or insight—ideally something that is intuitive but not obvious. This is the best combination to get people nodding their heads in agreement, trusting in your credibility and interested to learn more. Hint: to start, copy your entries from the worksheets into a series of slides.

The prose format has four lengths:

  • A word or phrase
  • A sentence
  • A paragraph
  • A page

This ensures that your narrative can be shared in long and short-form without losing its essence.

The following examples show our take on what the phrase, sentence, and paragraph versions might look like for several familiar companies.


Dimensions of Purpose

Every component of your narrative expresses a different dimension of how your company relates to your Shared Purpose and the stakeholders you share it with. Keeping in mind each component's job will help you know what points to focus on as you describe them in your seed document.



“We used to take belonging for granted. Cities used to be villages. Everyone knew each other, and everyone knew they had a place to call home. But after mechanization and the Industrial Revolution of the last century, those feelings of trust and belonging were displaced by mass-produced and impersonal travel experiences. We also stopped trusting each other. And in doing so, we lost something essential about what it means to be a community. At a time when new technologies have made it easier to keep each other at a distance, you're using them to bring people together. And you’re tapping into the universal human yearning to belong—the desire to feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who you are, no matter where you might be.”

PHRASE: Belong anywhere

SENTENCE: Technology can help bring people together.



“To say Starbucks purchases and roasts high-quality whole bean coffees is very true. That’s the essence of what we do—but it hardly tells the whole story. Every day, we go to work hoping to do two things: share great coffee with our friends and help make the world a little better. It was true when the first Starbucks opened in 1971, and it’s just as true today. From the beginning, Starbucks set out to be a different kind of company. One that not only celebrated coffee and the rich tradition, but that also brought a feeling of connection. Our mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. We’re a neighborhood gathering place, a part of the daily routine—and we couldn’t be happier about it. Get to know us and you’ll see: we are so much more than what we brew.”

PHRASE: Third place

SENTENCE: Coffee, connection and community inspire the human spirit.



"At Sephora, beauty is in our DNA. Sephora believes every stroke, swipe and dab reveals possibility, and we share our clients’ love for the confidence that our products, services and expertise bring to their life every day. In every store, clients unlock their beauty potential at our Beauty, Skincare and Fragrance Studios through intuitive technology and guidance from the most knowledgeable and professional team of product consultants in the beauty industry.

[We are] obsessed with teaching and inspiring clients to play in a world of beauty. ... Sephora encourages bold choices in beauty—and in life with the purpose of inspiring fearlessness."

PHRASE: Let's beauty together

SENTENCE: We can all be artists for our own beauty.


How do you write up your narrative so it can be shared and put into action?

  • Weave the elements of your narrative together into something concise, clear, and compelling.
  • Combine all of the worksheet responses from earlier in the guidebook to start creating a seed document. Don’t worry about getting the wording perfect; this isn’t external “messaging” but rather a starting point.
  • Share and discuss your seed document with your colleagues to check for alignment.
  • Use your seed document as a reference to guide strategic decisions and inform communications.

Did this guidebook get you thinking? Let's talk about how to bring new mental models into your organization for exponential results.

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