Tighten your mission statement
A friend was tapped to help craft his company’s mission statement. After months at the table — arguing over arcane jargon; taking out commas, then putting them back in; and debating whether “that” or “which” was the right word to use in the sixth sentence — the job was finally done.
Weeks later, after the credo was printed in six-point type, laminated on a business card and safely stored in wallets and the backs of desk drawers, management held a surprise. Employees in team meetings were “invited” to stand up in front of their colleagues and recite the mission statement from memory.
My friend recited Hamlet’s soliloquy.
He had no idea what the mission statement said — and he’d been on the team that wrote it.
Make it short
As with so much in life, less in a mission statement is actually more. Short credos stick in people’s minds. Long ones just fade away.
“A mission statement should be both brief and global,” says communication consultant David P. Seifert, ABC. “It’s a concise statement about [your] overriding purpose.”
- Make it an elevator pitch. Could you sell your idea, your team or your communication vehicle to your CEO in the time it takes the elevator to get from the first floor to the third?
- Keep it to eight words or less. Eight words is the length of sentence a reader can understand fully at a glance, according to research by the American Press Institute.
- Put it on a bumper sticker. If you can’t convey your purpose on a bumper sticker, says Gil Maurer, former president of Hearst Publishing, it’ll never fly.
Make it shorter
But shorter’s better.
Condé Nast Traveler condenses its aim into a three-word mission statement-cum-tagline:
“Truth in Travel”
And the International Association of Business Communicators does Condé Nast Traveler one letter shorter/better. Its credo:
That’s a mission statement I could recite from memory.
Sources: Ann Wylie, Planning Powerful Publications, IABC, 2002
Abe Peck, “The Mission Position,” Folio:, Nov. 1, 2002