Published on October 19th, 2018
How to Write a Mission Statement
- Define What Drives You: Say what the purpose is behind what you do.
- Be True to Yourself: Tell others who you are and what they can expect.
- Keep It Simple: Remove jargon and buzzwords.
- Edit, Refine, and Release: Parse and polish every word.
A mission statement can set the course for how a brand will treat its customers and behave in the outside world or it can languish in the "About" section of a company’s website.
It can either act as the driving force behind a brand or it can be treated as an afterthought.
I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of both types (though you probably only remember the good ones).
The most effective mission statements help define a company’s actions and inspire customer loyalty. Why people choose to purchase from a brand, stick with it over months and years, and advocate for it has everything to do with their satisfaction with the product and how true to its word the brand is.
There’s certainly an art to writing a mission statement that resonates with your audience and adheres to your values.
It might not be easy, but here are 4 steps to take to make the process painless and the outcome meaningful.
Step 1: Define What Drives You
There’s a purpose behind why you get out of bed in the morning (and, no, it’s not to cross things off your to-do list and sit in on meetings). Does your company exist to inform? to empower? to connect? What outcome do you want your customers and teammates to have after interacting with you? How do you want them to feel?
This is the fuel that powers your mission statement and indicates why you care about your business. When done well, the mission defines what’s at stake and the solution you provide.
Health food provider Sweetgreen sells salads and other healthy options in a fast-food environment. Their mission isn’t just to sell lunch, but “to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.” This tracks directly to how they source and prepare their food and how they work to improve their local communities.
On the other side of the cook’s table, Le Creuset makes cookware for the at-home chef. And while they could easily build a mission around filling my kitchen with the perfect shade of Caribbean blue dutch ovens, the company’s statement—”Le Creuset is focused on inspiring and empowering people everywhere to make joy through cooking”—is purpose-driven.
Spend time digging into the why of what you do—what your brand inspires in others—and you’ll find the backbone of your mission statement.
Step 2: Be True to Yourself
Your purpose, values, and mission statement all support how you build your company’s culture, how you treat your employees and customers, and how you interact with both the competition and your community. Your statement tells others who you are and what they can expect from you.
Consistency is key.
Don’t build a killer mission statement that sounds great on paper but the brand can’t support. Consumers reward companies that are authentic and will notice when a company takes action that goes against its mission.
Patagonia's mission statement—“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”—lays out exactly what they do and what the public can expect from them. While the organization may attract criticism when they make a political statement, their mission statement makes no secret of what they stand for.
You don’t need to take a hard stance on any position in your own statement (unless that’s at the core of what your brand is), but it should reflect your values. Then, as your brand acts—and reacts—within the outside world, you can check how this works with and reflects back on your mission.
Step 3: Keep It Simple
It’s very possible that what you do is also why you do it. If that’s the case, there’s no need for embellishment.
TED’s mission statement is condensed to two simple words: “Spread ideas.” For a non-profit known for its concise keynotes, just two words are perfectly appropriate.
Your mission may not be as succinct, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be clear and direct about what your purpose is.
Stitch Fix handles the clarity of what they do and the reasons behind it. There’s no ambiguity here to Stitch Fix’s purpose: “It’s our mission to change the way people find clothes they love by combining technology with the personal touch of seasoned style experts.”
Part of the craft of keeping your statement clean is to make sure you use language everyone can read. You don’t want a sentence that defines your brand to be filled with vocabulary only company insiders can decipher.
The same goes for buzzwords. A mission statement should be able to stand the test of time and show off a brand’s sense of purpose, something that can easily be degraded by using jargon and trendy terms.
Step 4: Edit, Refine, and Release
This is the fun part. As with any piece of writing, you’ll want to edit the heck out of your mission statement before you release it into the wild. While it might be the shortest piece of writing you’ll create, it’s imparting volumes of information to the reader, and so, for good and bad, every single word should be parsed and polished.
It’s also a good approach to look to others for feedback. Your internal team is going to be living this mission, and it’s crucial they’re behind it. Workshop it with your prospects and customers and find out how they view your brand through the filter of your working statement. Then listen to what they all have to say. Most likely you’ve spent a good amount of time on this already, but stay open to their changes and suggestions. Refine what’s needed and then set it free.
The good news is that your mission statement can be as adaptable as your company is. As your brand may flex and change over time, so can your statement.
Facebook, Snapchat, and Microsoft have all changed their mission statements as their business models and values evolved. While it’s not effective to be switching missions every few months, your statement isn’t serving you well if it’s outdated and doesn’t match your brand’s culture and values.
Make a (Mission) Statement
Whether you’re in the process of building a business plan and need to create a mission statement for the first time or your existing mission statement has been collecting dust on the virtual shelf for years, we’re living in an environment where the time is right to build a statement you believe in.
A recent study reported nearly ⅔ of consumers are more likely to make a purchasing decision based on a brand’s social or political position. Your brand may be well poised to enter the arena of social responsibility or it may defer to serving customers without making a strong belief-based statement. A strong mission statement should provide a clear direction one way or the other. (And know that your customer and prospects—almost ⅔ of them—are looking at your mission as well.)
By capturing the company’s purpose, solution, and authenticity about who and how it serves its customers, mission statements can not only serve as a guide to where the brand is headed but in how it behaves along the journey.