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Mission statement aborted: How to avoid a failing brand proposition


Written by Chris Hewitt

If there’s one thing every company needs, it’s clarity of purpose. The power of a crystal clear mission statement can’t be underestimated if you want to be heard.

Get it wrong and you confuse. Get it right and you open doors.

I’ve read some great mission statements in my time but I’ve also seen some absolute howlers. If you’re about to create or review a mission statement, here is my formula to avoid the pitfalls and set yourself up for success.

  1. What’s the problem?

That may sound counter-intuitive for a mission statement, but the reality is that your audience doesn’t care about you. They care about the problem they have and they want it fixed. This means your mission statement should simply address it.

Just as prospects will respond better when they understand the problem you can solve for them, your employees will also find their work infinitely more rewarding knowing they’ve a clear purpose.

STOP talking about yourself. 

START talking about the real heroes – your customers.  

  1. How do you solve it?

Once you’ve set out the business problem, now articulate how you solve it. Very succinctly and simply, what tools do you offer to fix the problem? What is your proposition?

Be warned: Some mission statements are far too clever for their own words. So much so, that the audience just doesn’t get it. Resist the urge to spout jargon. Use conversational English.

The middle part of your mission statement needs to explain what you do.

STOP using internal or technical language.

START telling them how you solve their problem in plain English.

  1. What’s the outcome?

By this point you’ve set out the problem. You’ve told them how you answer it. But why should anyone care?

This is the moment you address the future outcome. What are the consequences of doing business with you?

STOP focusing on the input you provide.

START addressing the outcome customers will see.

To help you to imagine what your mission statement might look like in practice, here’s the one we developed for the Berkeley Storytelling Academy:

SHORT MISSION STATEMENT:

The Berkeley Storytelling Academy: Transforms business leaders into inspirational communicators.

FULL MISSION STATEMENT:

Many business leaders struggle to find the compelling narrative for their brand.

The Berkeley Storytelling Academy teaches people proven storytelling techniques to transform them into inspirational communicators.

Winning hearts and minds, becoming memorable and inspiring at the podium and moving them to act, the Berkeley Storytelling Academy empowers business leaders to effect change.

By the end of this process your mission statement should have taken pretty solid shape. Now you need to plan how to execute it.

Decide how to implement it consistently across the various channels. And don’t limit this to either an external or internal audience. As I highlighted earlier, the mission statement motivates employees as much as it does to engage with external audiences and it’s vital your people are working to the same principles you’re championing in your marketing activity.

Mission statements are one of the topics we delve into on the Foundation course of the Berkeley Storytelling Academy. The one-day session provides a mix of practical advice and inspiration for business leaders so they can unleash the power of brand storytelling in their organisation. If you’re on a mission statement mission, so to speak, find out more here.