Provid Film’s Perspective of Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Workshop, Book, Podcast, and more.
Notes / Essay by Noah Anttila
Every business has a story with characters, challenges, and potential outcomes whether good or bad. The power of stories comes from the fact that “story” (as a method or tool) is a language humans universally understand and connect with. Our ears perk up when we hear a story, we tune our attention to the story we’re unconsciously eavesdropping in on, we spend hours at the movies sitting in a chair inches away from (or even rubbing elbows with) complete strangers all because we as humans love a good story.
As an independent video production company, we at Provid Films in Minneapolis Minnesota LOVE telling business stories. We’re always in search of the entrepreneurs who are trying to change an industry, change the culture of a city, or simply change lives through the for-profit sector. We believe that when we tell stories of people who are changing the world, we are empowering their story to spread farther and deeper like adding gas to a fire.
Since we started tuning into Donald Miller’s Storybrand podcast (link here) a couple of years ago, we began falling in love.
We’ve dived deep into nearly every piece of content we can find online including:
- Donald Miller’s Storybrand Website blog articles
- Downloadable PDF Worksheets
- email newsletter (and the regular content shared over the past years)
- the 5 minute marketing makeover (link)
- guest appearances on each of those with other hosts > searching iTunes for any reference of “Donald Miller StoryBrand”
As Donald says “when you confuse, you lose” – so we want to make sure there’s no confusion here – we are NOT StoryBrand and they did not write this blog post. We are just simply fans. If you are like us, you think every business needs to hear about the author Donald Miller and his work. We want to be clear, we are not connected to the author, these are not his words, this is our perspective and review.
Like you read earlier, we love what Donald Miller is doing and wish every business would at a minimum 1) buy the audiobook and 2) get a basic understanding of his 7 part framework because it takes the mystery out of how you can tell stories in your business. Having a busy life with families and young kids, video production projects nationwide, and volunteering, most of our education comes in the form of the different audio resources available.
Who are we and who do we serve?
Our clients often include business owners, brand managers, public relations and marketing directors that have a specific business goal (usually increasing customers and sales volume or decreasing costs and inefficiencies). Creating a business is hard and has a lot of obstacles that sometimes people can’t get through without help. That’s where we help our clients – we help them make videos to achieve their goals.
Our challenge is that many of our clients or prospective clients don’t understand their own story – or more important the story of their customer. Thanks to resources like Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Workshop and now, more of an entry level, Building a Story Brand book on Amazon, we’re able to point people to solutions that help them find clarity in their own business and really understand their own customer’s journey.
Donald Miller, the creator of StoryBrand workshop, helps you better your business by helping you market your product or service in the right way and to the right audience by telling a story using his 5 core concepts and the 7 modules to create a story.
Many of you are probably familiar with Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership free podcast, they also have a master series event which featured Donald Miller and this is a video from their Youtube page:
Storybrand One Liner Exercise | Donald Miller | EntreLeadership Takeaways
(Disclaimer: These are public videos from Youtube and Vimeo which we are sharing with you in this blog post under fair use)
When we first heard this 7 part framework it really helped explain the mechanics of telling a company’s story. While we intuitively knew how to do it – we didn’t have a system to ensure success.
If you’re haven’t seen the promotional video for Storybrand Workshops, here’s the video.
*Disclaimer* Again, we’d like to just clarify that Storybrand and Provid Films are independent companies and not endorsed or affiliated
So for those who are curious about Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Workshop, here is our summary with perspective, and lastly, we end with what we recommend.
Below here is our 50,000ft understanding of Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Workshop
What exactly is “story”? What is the definition of Story?
According to Donald Miller, story is the most powerful way to compel the human brain. Americans spend over $10 billion at box offices a year. If you understand story your business will shine. The core concepts of the Storybrand 7-part framework is to show clearly what you need to do to tell a successful story. It’s like a recipe.
- First, you start off with a character or hero in any story. The hero has to want something specific. The story structure for the hero is usually they are called to a task that is outside their comfort zone but is needed for their survival and for the benefit of others.
- Now that you have the hero, the hero needs a problem that he encounters. The reason a character has to encounter a problem early in the story is that the problem positions a story question. It makes audience stick around to get the answer if the hero will get out of the problem. There will be an outside problem, causing an internal problem, and sometimes a philosophical problem that the hero has to deal with as well. Most companies try to sell solutions to fix those external problems but people are really more interested in solving their internal problems and make their purchasing decisions with that goal in mind. When the customer clicks the “buy now” button on your website it should promise to resolve three levels of conflict in your customer’s story.
- Third, the hero needs to meet a guide who understands them. For your business, you want to be the guide while the customer is the hero of the story. Your brand should have empathy toward the customer in the journey. Understand internally about the customer instead of all the externalties and you’ll more clearly tell yours story.
Our perspective: Most brands come to us looking to produce a video for them while they don’t have any clue how to tell their brand story. They think their company story is the hero and that the customer is simply along for the ride. We love how the focus should be on the customer – where the brand is simply positioning itself as a trail guide or sherpa. The story isn’t about the guide who climbs Mt Everest, the story is about the customer – the sherpa was simply a supporting role hired to guide the hero to the peak. If you try to position yourself as the hero, you’ll not be nearly as attractive as the customer wants to feel like they are the hero. It’s like trying to outshine the host of a party you were invited to attend. Use some humility and make your customer’s success be the thing that leads you.
How does brand authority play into your story? Who is the hero of the story?
As Donald Miller explains, the guide has to give the hero a plan. The plan can be as simple as a paradigm shift or as complex as a multi-level strategy that will help the hero win a complicated battle. For example, as Donald points out with Frodo in Lord of the Rings on his journey to Mount Doom, giving the hero a plan is giving them an option to take up arms and is their “call to action”.
In the story, the hero must decide if they should act on the plan that the guide gave to them or not. They must choose whether to be comfortable (and not go forward) or follow the guide and finish out with the plans given.
Ultimately there are two outcomes for the hero – ending in success (happy ending) and failure (sad ending).
Whether or not a story ends happy or sad, the audience should see both sides.
Pain is a powerful tool for driving the emotion of a buyer, customer, and hero of your story. Success cannot be automatic or guaranteed – there needs to be a risk – or else you risk boring your audience and losing their attention entirely.
Every audience member must have a clear idea of what possible failure for the hero looks like if they don’t act on the plan. If the audience doesn’t know the failures that can happen they might feel disconnected and lose interest. Make sure that when telling a story it has to be as clear and simple as possible for your audience to understand. Brands that understand all of this know that even what happens in the stories happen in real life and when businesses connect them it will connect them, it will connect customers better.
Customers are the hero – you need to tell THEIR story! You need to give them the plan (or vision) that has the outcome they want enough to follow you. Without a plan, without a vision of an outcome the character desires, the story stalls out. There needs to be a plan, a basic plot or journey the character’s are on for the story to keep moving (holding the audience’s attention).
How do we understand Donald Miller’s BrandScript and how does it work?
When running a business Donald Miller recommends you write the script of a brand.
You can easily find the printable PDF BrandScript template with a quick Google search – that helps bring clarity to that challenge. to connect with customers. The BrandScript should be dumbed down so it’s as simple as you can get it.
Customers (the hero) want to grow their business but the problem they have is that they lack the plan (which you have as the “guide”). You have to challenge your customer to engage you to successfully help the customer change their business.
Now that you have your BrandScript, don’t think it is complete because it can be changed many times.
Looking through their website you’ll see the 7 modules that the StoryBrand workshop goes through, the first module is all about the character of a story.
Ultimately, you want to make sure your story positions the customer as the hero. Too often businesses make the mistake in their messaging that makes it sound like they are the hero and not the customer. It’s a simple change, but it’s critical. What does the customer want? What problems do they have? Engaging with potential customers is similar to going out on a first date, the more you talk about yourself, the more likely you won’t get a second one.
The second part of the character detail is their motivation – your customers want you to help them transform into someone better.
Brands that participate in the character transformation of their customer create brand evangelists.
The way that you ensure you’re telling the customer story is getting to know who they are beyond a demographic profile and really more of their psychographic makeup. Survey your customers to find out this information. Find out what kind of person they are.
Provid Films Perspective: We don’t entirely agree with this part about your customer wanting to be the hero. Yes, it’s critical to nail this first part. Too often business owners think they know who their customer is – 35-45 year old working professional female with $125-250k income and no kids. While those demographics may have been useful in the past, they aren’t as efficient today. Now with all of the data you can track about someone online, you can know so much more of their psychographic information that impacts someone’s buying decisions so much more. Now you can find out someone’s desires and speak directly to that person’s needs – even when there may be customers across numerous demographic segments with that same deeper desire.
That said – if we were to summarize all of Donald Miller’s StoryBrand content into one sentence it would be this: tell the story of your customer’s transformation with the need they had before meeting you and how different their life is after you helped them experience that beautiful transformation. That story is ALL about the customer and phrased from their perspective. Make sure you are not positioning your brand as the hero of your story, position yourself as the secondary character guiding the customer along their journey as they are the main character and hero.
Where we differ is in that we don’t necessarily think the heavily emphasized main character of “hero” is the character type a customer wants to be. We agree that they want to be the center of the story – they want to be the main character – but not necessarily the hero. There are different personalities and perhaps they want to be another one besides hero – regardless – from a brand story perspective you can always bet safely on positioning yourself as the guide.
How do you write your non-profit brand story?
As Donald Miller points out, non-profit organizations might run into a different situation when making a script. When making a script for a non-profit you can go two different paths, tell the story of the people we are helping and pivot the call to action to the donor.
This is our understanding of an example:
- Find out what the people in need want
- Identify what is standing in the way of their pain being relieved
- Craft a method of sharing the story that people can easily empathize with
- Deliver the plan to solve the problem
The other path is if you tell the story of the donor and how their world and identity can change if they contribute.
This is a little different example but we summarize it like this:
- Find out what the donors do
- What’s standing in the way of them doing it?
- How do you empathize
- Why can they trust you to help them
- What’s your plan to help solve a problem in the world
- Have you asked them to donate or volunteer
- Have you described what their world will feel like if they contributed?
Think of any action movie and you’ll understand Module #2 – it deals with the problem in your story. A story doesn’t get interesting until the hero encounters a problem. From a romantic comedy to an epic adventure movie, they set up the characters and you start to get attached until some challenge is presented. Some movies it’s the introductory scene – other’s it’s farther in – at the end of the day if there was no trouble in a story it would be boring.
Thinking towards your customers, the main character in your story, until you clearly define what problems your brand can solve for your customers, it’s hard to kick off a good story. Without knowing your customer’s problem – and including that in your brand messaging – customers won’t understand why your brand is relevant to their lives and you’re risking them moving on to your competitors.
Donald Miller, again and again, reiterates – “if you confuse, you lose”. It’s not the brand with the best product but the best messaging that dominates a market.
Three types of challenges exist – internal and external. External (our vehicals are reliable and durable even on long road trips) versus internal (our vehicals will make sure your child makes it home for Christmas no matter where they’re coming from).
A third type of example is the philosophical element that lives in the world of “should” and “ought”. Such as you should never trust your family in a less safe car.
By making sure to know what the 3 types of problems are (external, internal, philosophical) you will be able to understand how to clearly communicate what the crisis feels like. The benefit is that your customers will identify with you and trust you.
The most important thing to think about when coming into problems is to always focus harder to fix the internal problem more than the external because that’s what matters to people.
Here is a quick paragraph summary / overview of sections 3-7 followed by our perspective, recommendations, and additional resources. Please note that if something doesn’t quite make sense that’s because this isn’t a 100% in depth complete synopsis of Donald Miller’s StoryBrand workshop or Creating A Story.
In module three we meet back up talking about the guide to your story. Remember that the hero is not the strongest character in a story. The strongest character in the story should be the guide. Being the guide you get to show your authority in your area of expertise, but don’t over do it. Authority gives your customer confidence you know what you’re doing. Too much authority can make your brand sound like it wants to be the hero. Too much authority will also clutter the narrative of the story.
Module four is about who gives the customer a plan. Customers need to know that you have a plan that’s going to help them win the day. Donald recommends two types of plans: process plan and agreement plan. The process plan helps define the steps your customer needs to take (these are the steps to success). An agreement plan is a list of agreements or commitments you make to your customer (your guarantee). Brands should use process plans on their website to make it as simple as possible for the customer to know how to engage with your business (to begin their journey towards success)
The guide gives the hero a plan to give the hero confidence. The hero needs a map to show the way to success.
Module five calls your customer to action – to engage with your business. If you don’t ask people to purchase from you, they probably won’t. Every business should have a Direct Call To Action: Ask for a purchase, schedule an appointment or do something that leads to a sale. Transitional Call To Actions gives the customer an opportunity to go deeper with your brand without a large commitment. Preferably with a free offer of information, it can help you become known for something. The direct call to action is like saying “will you marry me?” and the transitional call to action is saying “can we go out again?”.
Module six it is all about failure. Show the life of your customer looks like with your product to show the success it brings. What are you helping your customer avoid so they can live a better life? Help people understand what pain or frustration you’re helping them avoid. If you use too much of the failure element it can make you sound manipulative. Pointing out the failure your product or service provides can bring clarity. And along with failure, there is also success which the last and seventh module talks about. The results in success In your marketing, use images that come out of the success category. Show happy people! What does your customer’s life look like after using your product or service? What are all the successes that your product or service brings to the customer when they decide to click “buy now”.
Who is the StoryBrand Workshop for?
We recommend the StoryBrand workshop for those who don’t want to spend hundreds of hours listening to every podcast. the audiobook, guest podcasts, and countless Youtube videos. Perhaps you lead a larger team or work in an organization that doesn’t have it’s clear identity and you’re not certain how to move forward – all of the StoryBrand content is designed to help bring clarity to your brand message.
Yes, it is an investment with Donald Miller’s online class costing approximately $1495 and in person costing $3000 plus travel (prices as of 7/3/2018 based on their website).
If you’ve never heard of Donald Miller and not ready to take the plunge, do yourself a favor and at least buy the audiobook on Amazon (link at the bottom of this blog post).
It might seem like a lot of information coming at you fast but Donald Miller always does a great job explaining the core concepts in very simple and clear ways.
Once again I’d like to add the disclaimer that we have zero affiliation with Donald Miller and the StoryBrand Workshop.
Let’s be clear:
Our dream is that every inquiry we get looking to do a handcrafted business video production project really understand Donald Miller’s StoryBrand 7 Part Framework and come to us with his BrandScript ready to go. Often our new customers come to us struggling with clarity around their brand story. They may know who is buying their product or service but they don’t know how to really put together the pieces in telling a coherent brand story. We often waste so much time trying to find clarity around a company’s own story that it costs considerable amounts of time.
If you are new to the Donald Miller StoryBrand concept – please buy the audiobook and listen to it on your commute. It’s a great summary of his framework and is sure to get your mind going. If you’re a Donald Miller fan then consider buying his workshop!
Provid Films Training – what would your business look like if 7 minutes from now you knew
- The ideal length of video you should create
- How to save thousands of dollars on video production costs
- The 2 types of videos you can film yourself with your iPhone/Android
Provid Films Training – Learn our 3 part process to identify, script & share YOUR brand’s own story
You don’t have to struggle through this alone – that’s why we’re here to guide you through the process.
We LOVE what Dan Mace is doing with visual storytelling and think you’ll LOVE this video.
BONUS CONTENT #2!
While the StoryBrand education typically recommends you’re the guide to your customer’s story, do you know the character type your customer is? Do you know if they actually want to be THE HERO? What if you sell adventure gear and your customer actually wants to be THE EXPLORER!?!
A great way to understand the Archetypes are to see examples.
Here’s a Youtube video showing examples that should be easy to relate to and understand. It’s called “Marvel Heroes Hero Archetype Quick Reference Guide
Here is a really cool article (it’s short) that breaks down the 12 different character types and personalities.
Each character has goals, fears, weaknesses, and talents.
The hero thrives on being strong and standing up for others. They may feel they have a destiny that they must accomplish. Heroes are courageous in their quest for justice and equality and will stand up to even the most powerful forces if they think they are wrong.
Goal: to help others and protect the weak
Fear: being perceived as weak or frightened
Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight
Talent: competence and courage
Read the rest of the article if you’re interested!
What Are the 12 Archetypes and Which One Dominates Your Personality?