Content and storylines

Telling the world what you do, is pretty hard

Telling your (brand) story in such a way it makes your audience curious and engaged, is damn difficult. No need for a detailed explanation you need a storyline for your identity. To define what you do and why you matter. In a nutshell, why your audience should buy your product or service.

Speaking for myself, for years I struggled. Until I read one of the best brand strategy books ‘Building a Story Brand' by Donald Miller. His seven steps help you to clarify your message and to tell the world what you do. Stolen with pride and giving the credits, a summary of his work and applied to 'Think like a publisher'.



The seven steps for your storyline

  1. Character: surprise, it's not you! The ‘hero’ of the story is your audience. What do they want?
  2. Problem: what is their struggle? From the evil villain to their external, internal, and philosophical problem.
  3. Guide: this is you! Show empathy for your character and their problem. Show authority that you are the one to help them.
  4. Plan: show how you help them with a process and an agreement.
  5. Call to action: take your character by the hand to make the next step. The easier you make it, the faster they act. From a direct CTA to a transitional CTA, give away something for free.
  6. Success: link this to the problem. What does your character has if they work with you, how do they feel? Describe the before and after.
  7. Avoid failure: give an overview of what happens if they don’t work with you.


Storyline ‘Think like a publisher’

To make this more tangible, the storyline for my book explained. I hope this inspires you to create your own story brand. And you to get better content that connects with your audiences.

This process is easier than you think. Just watch the video, read the book, grab a piece of paper and some sharpies to start writing. There is no right or wrong. Do what works for your brand and your story to differentiate yourself from the competitors. The only thing that matters is to be honest, keep it simple, and do not use buzz words and jargon. 



This is my audience. What do they want? What is their struggle? Thinking of all my assignments and projects for the most amazing brands, they have a few things in common:

  • They want content, yet do not know how to get it in an accountable and sustainable way. Getting a marketing campaign in place is not the issue. The issue is that it is complicated and overwhelming to get the overarching brand story and connect to the audiences.
  • They also want social. Again, getting the campaigns is easy. Getting it on long-term and integrated feels like rockets science.
  • They struggle with the accountability of content and social. How to measure the value of the investment in resources, budget, and time? Is it worth it? We are past the time that 'content and social is a belief'. The C-suite is accountable for every euro they spend. And they need to prove it with data. 
  • They are looking to get a continuous flow of high-level on-brand content and social in an efficient and cost-effective way.

To keep things simple, your character is an individual. Pick one, not two. In my case, this is the Marketing Manager, CMO or CEO. For further simplification, create a persona. My character is a female CMO, derived from one of my former assignments.

Please notice, my ‘hero’ is not perse the only reader or target audience of my book and this blog. Writing for senior-level does not exclude the content and social nerds to read and learn from it.



This is in line with the needs of the character. Donald Miller divers the problem into four sections.

  • Villain: to give focus and a conflict. ‘The villain should be a root source. Frustration, for example, is not a villain; frustration is what a villain makes us feel. High taxes, rather, are a good example of a villain.’ For my storyline, the villain is the expensive agency for (short-term) content production. My CMO pays them big bucks without knowing if the content works to get (long term) more business or sales.
  • External problem: ‘If we own a restaurant, the external problem we solve is hunger. It’s usually pretty obvious.’ My CMO needs to tell the brands’ story to compete in today's market.
  • Internal problem: ‘The purpose of an external problem in a story is to manifest an internal problem.’ My CMO is already convinced of the urgency, yet she doesn’t know how to do it. She struggles with the ‘how to’ tell their brand story with content. Where to start? How to make it a success? What do I need? How to keep the production as cheap as possible? How not look like a fool?
  • Philosophical problem: ‘this can best be talked about using terms like ought and shouldn’t. ‘Bad people shouldn’t be allowed to win’ or ‘People ought to be treated fairly.’ In my case ‘brands ought to stand out and be different than their competitors.



That’s me! :) Two simple elements to fill in and boost my ego.

  • Empathy: show I care. ‘I get it can be complicated and overwhelming to create content and use social. And explain your budget spend to the board’. ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’. It is pretty difficult to differentiate between content marketing and social media cowboys in today's market.
  • Authority: me being me. My track record speaks for itself with 20+ years of experience for 35+ top-notch brands and agencies. Great recommendations on my LinkedIn, word of mouth in the industry, keynote speaker on amazing international events, and me being a jury member for WARC and AMMA. For that last part, being asked as a freelancer to participate in a jury, is pretty amazing. Normally only the big agencies with great clients, or the great clients with big budgets are asked for a jury.



‘Content is no rocket science’ sums it up for me. I explain how I work, describing the steps I take when working for a new client. As there is no golden nugget, this is not set in stone. It is bespoke, and it all starts with a coffee and a deep dive into the issues the CMO faces. Accordingly, keeping things simple I develop a clear roadmap on how to use content to stand out and connect to their audiences. From strategy to execution with team, tools, and processes to secure it for the long term.



Taking my CMO by the hand. There are two CTAs.

  • The direct is ‘call me now for a coffee and free 30 mins session’ Me giving away my knowledge and experiences for free. You have to seduce and make them curious before you can sell.
  • The more indirect, the transitional CTA is to give your knowledge away in a download or a sample. For me, free content on thinklikeapublisher.com and the PFDs with the content collected.



If the CMO works with me, she gets a feasible and realistic content and social strategy. Clear and simple, no rocket science, understandable and comprehensible for all. Silo and department agnostic and that honors the brand and reflects the identity. The separate content and social campaigns add up to the bigger picture. And they individually contribute to the overarching brand story and identity.

She feels in control by having an overview in planning, and able to measure success and progress by receiving reports on KPIs. And easy to explain to her peers. Her fear is vanished: off-brand content or unintended touching on reputational issues.


Avoid failure

If you do not hire me to help you with your content and social strategy, you will…

  • Have no overview of planning: what content is published when by what department using which channel
  • Have no overview of budget: how much money are you spending for production and distribution
  • Not be accountable: you cannot measure the ROI on your efforts
  • Become invisible with sub-par more-of-the-same content. You do not stand out compared to your competitors
  • Hire expensive agencies jumping from campaign to campaign without an overarching story
  • Not being sure all your content is on-brand according to the brand identity and guidelines


Next step

Now you have your storyline and you are ready to tell the world in one catchy oneliner what you do. This oneliner is your marketing message, your elevator pitch, your explanation of what you do. This actually exists of three elements: their problem, your solution, and their success. 


Want to know more

Credits were credits due. Get the book ‘Building a Story Brand’ by Donald Miller or go to stroybrand.com to buy his seminar. He applies his own techniques pretty good and I almost bought his services. Reason for not buying, COVID-19. After 2020 my financial resources for educations are pretty much evaporated.


Fleur Willemijn van Beinum
Content is no rocket science. Nor is your storyline. 
Fleur Willemijn van Beinum