Creating a company mission statement that matters in the digital age::
“This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often,” reads the iconic 15-sentence statement of Holstee, an eco-friendly apparel company. “Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”
This “Holstee Manifesto” – originally created simply to define the culture of the Brooklyn-based company – has been translated into 12 different languages, printed into posters, t-shirts and mugs, and has been tweeted, tagged and shared to millions of viewers across the globe.
While their manifesto may have been innovative and widely popular, most companies and nonprofits fail to successfully express such passion. Most mission statements are plagued with wonky jargon, over-processed buzzwords and lacklustre language that fail to inspire and connect with supporters and customers.
But in an age of 140 characters and increasingly distracted consumers, how do companies and nonprofits create mission statements that can have real impact?
Make it count. This is not just a written document. This statement should serve the dual purpose of motivating internally and recruiting externally. It should harness many perspectives and be open to new ideas. And let’s face it — your mission statement shouldn’t mention anything about “stakeholders” or “solutions.” Save that jargon for the consultants. It should speak in naturally-flowing language that reflects the passion and drive behind it.
Starbucks, for example, does this right. Their mission is simple: “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” You don’t hear jargon about “best quality products” or “creating solutions” and so forth. It doesn’t mention coffee (after all, Starbuck offers much more than coffee), but alludes to it with the reference to “one cup.” Finally, “one neighbourhood at a time” reflects the local approach that the company aspires. The company’s new mission statement has been integrated into their recently tweaked branding, website and social media.
Meanwhile, in the non-profit world, our friends at Kiva manage to take a rather complicated topic of “microlending” and effectively simplify the message. Their mission? “To connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.” This crisp language is inspiring, memorable and actionable… and is carried throughout their website and social media presence.
Make it shareable. Next, how do you make your mission statement clickworthy? While we might not all have social media homeruns like our friends at Holstee, there is a lot we can learn from them.
For one, look for creative ways to showcase your mission statement. Typography, infographics and video can help draw the attention of your readers and breathe some life into your work. This makes it more shareable on online communities like Pinterest and Facebook. While this extra creativity may not have mattered at all 10 years ago, today the web is often the main place consumers and supporters engage with your brand. For example, frog – a design and technology firm – uses creative typography to help illustrate their credo. Although somewhat lengthy (similar to Holstee), the design draws you in and speaks to the firm’s core competencies.
Second, make your mission brief enough to share on Twitter. The point is not necessarily to tweet the statement over and over again, but rather to become comfortable with crisp language that focuses your ideas and becomes easily shared – whether online and off. “164 characters” is now the new “elevator speech.” It’s time to shorten and simplify your mission.
If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to watch this short video created by Fast Company’s Dan Heath. He does a fantastic job sharing “how to write a mission statement that doesn’t suck.”
What do you think about mission statements in the social media age? Are they necessary? What other nonprofits or companies are showcasing their mission in innovative ways?