Story guide

From Greenpeace Wiki

What this Story & Content Guide is and why we need one

Margaret Mead famously said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

For decades, Greenpeace activists have tried to shoulder the responsibility for changing the world.

But today’s world is too interconnected. There are too many urgent challenges for us to continue acting on behalf of our supporters. If we can inspire millions of citizens to understand and act on their own power, we will be effective.

What does this mean? It means that we have to tell stories that help people see themselves as agents of change. We have to stop thinking about “supporters” and “donors” and start thinking about millions of partners.

We are here to change mindsets. It's time to help people believe that a better world is possible through openness, community and collective action.

Every communication we create and every action each of us takes must reinforce this core insight. Our moral is what we stand for, our theory of change and our mantra. To outside supporters we are just Greenpeace.

This guide is designed to help you think about how your work fits into the global story.

A billion acts of courage can spark a better tomorrow.

How to use this S.T.O.R.Y. guide

We thought it would be cool to use the acronym STORY to frame content of a STORY guide to help you build your own. Story.

We will use the acronym STORY to help make it easy to find what you're looking for:

  • Strategy and Scope: The Framework asks us to change how we frame our issues. This section explains how our communications are changing with the new direction of Greenpeace.
  • Tone and Attitude of our communications: This section will help you focus on solutions, be positive and use a tone suitable to Greenpeace.
  • Our audience insights: We want to provoke hope, which means we need to understand hope in different audiences. This section will help you adapt your communications to specific audiences.
  • Roles and values: Successful organizations evolve from a set of core values. They drive and prioritize activities that align with those values. This section is about Greenpeace values.
  • Your special touch: Greenpeace is people. People act. People document. People give. Our work isn’t possible without the people power that drives it. If you're reading this guide, you are a part of that. This section will help you represent Greenpeace as a unique voice.

The Mindsets section documents the competing narratives our audiences are surrounded by every day. Many of our campaigns and actions need to address these specific mindsets. This guide can make it easier to spot a positive framing and/or solution for these common stories.

Strategy and Scope of our key messages

Essential Reading

Editorial Guidelines

Perhaps the most essential document for framing story and content is the Editorial Guidelines. The principles here prioritise stories and content for amplification on international channels. They are a guide to help NROs and project teams create content. They also offer uniform guidelines for content creators to make their day-to-day editorial decisions.

The principles are drawn from various documents (such as the Seven Shifts, the Global Moments Criteria, Greenpeace mission and values), as well as general editorial insights from the Hub teams. This document also includes a resource on communicating the 7 Shifts.

Key Messages

  • What you do matters. A billion acts of courage can spark a brighter tomorrow.
  • Together we are strong. We need people power to protect our planet.
  • Need to fill in key messaging

Tone and Attitude

                                   From dogmatic defender to champion of the impossible.

We Are the Champions of the Impossible

Champions of the Impossible are optimistic, bold and playful. How else can we hope to achieve the impossible? These five guidelines will help you master the tone of voice that a Champion of the Impossible speaks in:

  • Be Human. Write as you would speak. Be Informal, direct, personal and use short sentences. But be respectful. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to be more formal. For example when we phrase our demands to companies or political leaders. Use your judgement.
  • Be Bold. What you say should scare you a little bit. If you’re not putting yourself out on a limb, you’re not trying hard enough. If it doesn’t take a little courage to publish what you just wrote, it won’t inspire courage in anyone else.
  • Get Cheeky. The fact-based battle between good and evil isn’t getting people’s attention anymore. We need to be as savvy as the brands we’re facing off with. We need to use humor, pop culture references and unexpected language if we want to get noticed. Yes, our cause is dead serious, but to win, we can’t afford to be dead boring.
  • Smile. As you write or create, try putting a smile on your face. When you look back on what you’ve created, see if that smile holds. If not, perhaps you don’t believe that what you’re asking people to do will lead to a win or tap into their passions. Rethink what you’re asking.
  • Be Badass.We’re rebels here. So while we’re out to make people feel optimistic, we’re never fluffy or frivolous. Be bold about naming the bad actors, getting to the heart of problems and demanding change. Champions of the Impossible don’t pull punches.

Be optimistic, bold, playful and fun. The world has enough negativity and fear in it.

Our aim to inspire

Here is some example phrasing you can use for inspiration.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
We are citizens, not consumers.
Do something impossible.
Courage is contagious.
Do what scares you.

Our Audience Insights


Essential Reading

We will expand this section soon. Stay tuned.

Understanding Audience

We need to understand as much as possible about our new and existing supporters to predict how they are likely to act and what they will respond to.

We do this by trying to understand:

  • Who they are – through demographic information and database analysis
  • What they care about – through market research (values, interests and motivations), supporter surveys and focus groups, past behavior, what they have previously responded to, Facebook message testing
  • What will they do for Greenpeace – transactional analysis, past behavior, look-a-likes

We need to think about how we use this information to change our stories, our engagement opportunities and how we map it back to the database in order to personalize a supporter's journey. The Engagement Support Team's graphic goes into more depth and detail around why it's important to personalize journeys.

Producing relevant content for the right audience


Every time we choose to engage people and ask them to do something, every time we put a piece of content in front of our supporters or potential supporters we have the opportunity to make it as relevant and impactful as it can be.

We choose the channel, the timing, the story and the ask.

The more elements we can get right for each individual the more likely they are to act and the more acts of courage there will be to help bring about a green and peaceful world.

The more we know about our supporters the more likely it is we will make the right choices.

What is their lifestage, what values do they share with us, what are they really passionate about?

We need to understand what options we have available to us, and we need to think about how ask ourselves the right questions so we make the right choices at each stage and have the systems in place to enable us to make it a reality.

The RED framework

The RED framework helps us choose what we want to put in front of supporters to deepen their engagement over time.

For that individual, is this piece of content a Repeat, Expand or Discover engagement opportunity?

  • Have they heard about this before and taken action
  • Have they heard about or done something similar
  • Or is this completely new to them

The more we know, the more effective we can be. We may also choose to not put a new type of action with a new piece of the Greenpeace story that they are hearing for the first time.

It also leads to an interesting way to check how deeply engaged with us someone is. If we look at the % of actions we have asked them to do with us that they have undertaken, are those actions R / E / D, the better we know them and the more effectively that we test the more engaging we should be able to make their journey over time.

Roles and Values

Our role in the world

To function as mentors to our heroes — and to truly be Champions of the Impossible — we will play a very specific role. Our job going forward is to:

  • EXPAND POSSIBLE — We will lead by example with our own heroic acts: adding real value to the broader movement by doing those things that no one else can, breaking new ground, and pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable or seen as possible.
  • PROVIDE A PATH — We will share our skills, such as non-violent direct action and strategic thinking; and provide meaningful ways for people to take action as part of our campaigns, leveraging their unique skills and encouraging them to dream big.
  • INSPIRE ACTION — We will debunk the myth that courage is for the lucky few and provide specific tools, events and relationships that give people a deeper belief in their ability to go outside their comfort zones (see Brand Gift section for more details).
  • CATALYSE— Diversity is strength, so we will embrace a symphony of visions, catalyse collaboration between unlikely partners, and encourage the exploration of new ideas and possibilities, helping to redirect our unlimited ingenuity as humans toward the creation of a better world.
  • AMPLIFY — Every time people experience something that doesn’t fit with an old story, it weakens it, disrupts it, and makes space for something new. We’ll lend our reputation, name and energy to repeat and celebrate stories of contagious courage from inside our own network and beyond; from our local environment to the other side of the world; knowing that these stories have the power to inspire hope, courage and action in others.

What we offer people

Greenpeace will offer actions, trainings and communications that help millions systematically build their courage muscles. We will do this by providing people with:

  • PURPOSE – A bigger story that gives reason to believe my action will matter
  • ROLE MODELS – Examples of courageous heroes – succeeding and failing
  • SOCIAL PROOF – A community to connect to online and through events so people don’t feel alone
  • SKILLS – Practical tools to help build the courage muscle
  • A TRIGGER – Specific calls to courageous action

Our values

From Secretive to Open Source
                                          From Secretive to Open Source.

Successful organizations evolve from a set of core values. They drive and prioritize activities that align with those values. From culture to relationships, brands can provide benefits to their audiences by identifying shared values. There are two types of values: those that we inspire in our audiences and those that we use to operate our organisation.

  • COURAGE We believe: Life starts at the edge of your comfort zone and that the future is waiting for us to speak up. So: We call on everyone to bravely stand up for what they believe in and to take action for a better world.
  • CONNECTIVITY We believe: Everyone holds a piece of a better world and that the antidote to organised money is organised people. So: We embrace a diversity of visions, catalyse collaboration and encourage the exploration of new ideas and possibilities.
  • HOPE We believe: The positivity of action is better than cynicism and despair. So: We will get up off the sofa and express ourselves through our actions, knowing that our example inspires hope and action in others.

The values by which we operate

Personal Responsibility Nonviolence

We take personal responsibility for our actions, and we are committed to nonviolence. These principles are inspired by the Quaker concept of ‘bearing witness,’ which is about taking action based on conscience – personal action based on personal responsibility.


We ensure our financial independence from political or commercial interests. We do not accept money from either companies or governments. And we mean any money. Individual contributions, together with foundation grants, are the only source of our funding.

No Permanent Friends or Foes

In exposing threats to the environment and finding solutions we have no permanent allies or adversaries. If your government or company is willing to change, we will work with you to achieve your aims. Dither, backtrack or turn around and we will be back.

Promoting Solutions

We seek solutions for, and promote open, informed debate about society’s environmental choices. We don’t work to manage environmental problems, we work to eliminate them. It’s not enough for us to point the finger; we develop, research and promote concrete steps towards a green and peaceful future for all of us.

Your special touch

The crumbling stories and mindsets outlined below are far from comprehensive of all those we might address — and over time, new core stories will be called into question. The mindsets presented represent a starting place, but individual campaigns may use this format to identify and address others.

Find a different story

  1. To do this, start by thinking about your target audience. What stories and attitudes offer them meaning, explanation about how their world works and rituals to live by? Capture one of these stories in a headline.
  2. Now look for trend reports, pieces of pop culture or news events that call that story into question. Don’t worry if the myth hasn’t been 100% debunked. The idea is not to find stories that are truly dead. What you’re looking for is the open space between the old way of thinking and something new. This is where most great persuasion campaigns find their power.
  3. It’s not enough to point out what’s wrong with the old way. Calling an old story into question only gets people excited if you offer something to replace it with. New stories don’t just appear out of thin air. They are produced over time by many cultural forces working together. So new stories we seek to spread shouldn’t be born out of our own heads. We must look outward to find stories that are taking hold and that we can help amplify with our campaigns. Again, trend reports, pop culture and current events make fertile ground for discovering new stories to amplify.

Create your own story

Not every communication will be a literal story, but when you do want to tell one, this formula can help.

  • Choose a protagonist. Every story needs a specific protagonist. He or she should be someone your audiences can identify with or aspire to be.
  • Identify the problem and villain or obstacle.Your protagonist should have a clear problem she is trying to solve — and someone or something should be standing in her way. You don’t need to villainize specific people or groups for your story to have a good villain. The villain can be a cultural attitude (consumption without question, believing people don’t have a voice) or even come from within the protagonist herself (fear that one person can’t make a difference, feeling overwhelmed by the scale of a problem). If there’s no villain or obstacle, the problem will be too easy to solve and there will be no drama.
  • Show the breakthrough. Breakthroughs should come when our protagonist acknowledges her fear, decides to act anyway and does something that takes courage.
  • Identify the benefit to society. The benefit of overcoming the obstacle is not just a happier, more powerful or richer hero, but a better world. Paint a picture of how the hero’s success makes for a more vibrant, wider community or world.
  • Choose your sequence. You can start the story anywhere: with the unsatisfied hero facing a problem, looking back from the perspective of a "healed world" or at the moment of breakthrough. No matter where you start, each of these elements should make an appearance for the story to feel complete.

Mindsets: Stories we live by

from reinforcing old stories to building new ones
                                   From reinforcing old stories to building new ones.

We’re all natural storytellers.

  • Good Communications is Storytelling: Stories are how we make sense of the world. They shape peoples’ behaviour and their belief in what’s possible.
  • Storytelling is also a path to change: The story Greenpeace tells, and has always told, is that a better world is possible, and brave individual and collective actions can make it a reality.
  • The moral of our organisational story: Every Greenpeace campaign & every Greenpeace action can be boiled down to this – a billion acts of courage can spark a better tomorrow.
“Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

You are what you own. VS You are what you contribute.

the old story

We are consumers, not citizens. Someone else makes the big decisions while we define ourselves by the stuff we have, the stuff we want to buy and the stuff we wouldn’t be caught dead with. More money will make us more fulfilled. And the best way to express our values is by “voting with our dollars.”

Of course, there are billions who own nothing and thus are worth nothing according to this myth. We would need many more planets to include everyone in this crumbling story.

the new story

Our creativity, our passions and our willingness to help others defines us. We identify ourselves by the ideas we come up with, the ideas of others we pass on and share and the acts we are bold enough to take. We don’t consume the coolest stuff, we create it. And happiness comes less from having than it does from sharing.

The new story is a reality Maker culture is growing rapidly. Open Source development is leading Internet evolution. There is increased interest in redefining “the good life.” 3D printing is set to disrupt manufacturing in the same way mp3s disrupted music. Old gatekeepers (media companies, governments and pundits) are losing control.

Economic growth is good VS Wealth means healthy people and a healthy planet.

the old story

Our well-being relies on an ever-growing economy. Though many of us have come to suspect that economic growth accelerates the consumption of Earth’s natural resources and enriches the global 1%, we’re still dependent on the opportunities and wealth it spreads around.

the new story

Our economy exists to serve people, not the other way around. Real wealth derives not from numbers on a stock ticker but on the health of the planet on which we all depend. Progress is defined by how many are lifted out of poverty and by shrinking inequality. People created the old measures of economic health — so people can create new ones.

The new story is a reality The widely predicted slowing of global growth within the next two decades is based on demographic and resource trends. Including: growing distrust in unbridled capitalism (evidence by broad public opinion polls); near consensus about the threat of climate change; and new measures of economic well-being are taking hold.

Military power is safety. VS Empathy and equality keep us strong and safe.

the old story

The world is a dangerous place and the only way to protect ourselves is to spend billions on high-tech weaponry, constant surveillance and occasional but consistent invasions of non-compliant countries.

the new story

There will never be enough tanks and spies to secure a world in which billions live in desperate circumstances — while billions more move in that direction thanks to environmental degradation. Terrorism and aggression rely on the fuel of injustice. It is far more effective to fight back with mutual support, opportunity and empathy born of the interconnection that has now become possible.

The new story is a reality Terrorism and cyber threats cannot be confronted with military might. New technologies make empathy at scale suddenly possible. Young people are increasingly rejecting homophobia, sexism, racism and nationalism. Despite some pockets of violent and highly spotlighted exception, many believe we now live in the most peaceful time in recorded human history.

Technology will solve all the problems humanity creates. VS Human creativity, applied with purpose, solves our problems.

the old story

Scientists are working hard on solutions that will allow us to keep living just as we do. Someone will find a way to take the carbon out of the air, rebuild the coral reefs, regrow the forests and deal with all our garbage. When the market demands these things, they will simply appear.

the new story

Human ingenuity is indeed capable of amazing things. But it only solves the problems that it’s applied to. It is up to all of us to direct that ingenuity to take on our world’s most pressing challenges, starting now. And that ingenuity is needed not just from the elite inventors of the world, but from parents, educators, communities — all of us.

The new story is a reality Alternative energy sources becoming price competitive with fossil fuels. Rise of crowd-solving and crowd-inventing. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, X Prize, Tesla Motors.

Someone else will solve our problems. VS Working together as citizens, we will solve our problems.

the old story

History is created by the inspired few who come along and change everything — be they in government, business or civil society (like Greenpeace). The role for the rest of us is to be followers and cheerleaders.

the new story

We live in a world where good ideas can cross the globe in seconds, building millions of supporters along the way. Our actions can be noticed by anyone, anywhere. And while our leaders will need to be part of the solution, it has become clear that we, the people, will lead and leaders will follow.

The new story is a reality The growing popularity of spending time and money in local economies. Exodus from disconnected, sprawling suburbs and new possibilities for collaboration and cross-pollination in urban centers. Global South rejecting old models of aid in favor of local solutions. Twitter toppling tyranny. Hackers inventing faster than corporations.

Humans are bad. VS We are evolving just in time.

the old story

It’s an idea that’s been spread since the Bible’s story of The Garden of Eden. Humans have stepped outside of nature’s order and now exist apart from it. We are perverse and mean, incapable of sustained cooperation and altruism. Now that we’ve attained mastery over the Earth, any hope that we will leave behind greed and violence in time are fantasies of the naive.

the new story

Yes, we’ve shown our capacity for selfishness and short-sightedness. But humans have also been capable of enormous courage, altruism and evolution. Just as our problems accelerate, so too has our ability to understand each other, to collaborate on solutions and to influence the power structures that have limited us. These abilities are scaling exponentially. Fatalism about the future shows a very limited view of human potential.

The new story is a reality Young people are increasingly rejecting homophobia, sexism, racism and nationalism. Social media culture routinely makes altruism and pro-social behavior go viral. “Likes,” “Shares,” “Friends,” are the common parlance of a new communications culture.

Other guides to look at

  • A large spreadsheet was used to create this Story Guide. This spreadsheet lists many other documents, which you can use to understand things in this guide at a deeper level.
  • The Planet 4 Style Guide will help us have visual consistency in our web communications. However this guide has not been started. When all NROs and GPI integrate the basic common elements in this guide, we strengthen our message and increase its effectiveness. International and national/regional office websites should share enough common elements to be immediately identifiable as belonging to the same organisation.

The Story as a Theory of Change page points to examples, workshop materials and practical guides to help illustrate what this actually means, how to start living the new story of Greenpeace, and how to craft better stories. Internal Documentation | Public Resources.


Our Greenpeace forest campaign binds tropical and temperate, biodiversity and people. We must communicate in a powerful and unified way to mobilize the millions needed to win more and bigger victories. This style guide highlights the interconnectedness of all that we do.


We think that the Arctic deserves to be protected for all life on earth. One of our greatest strengths is the simplicity and power of our message. Let’s communicate it clearly. Our visual style should be simple, powerful and uncluttered. Let’s echo the clean lines and crystal beauty of the Arctic, but keep things playful, creative and human too.