Marketer Lynn Serafinn looks at the importance of having a mission statement and how to make one that resonates with yourself, your employees and the public.
In the 7 Graces of Marketing, Grace #5 is Transparency. The literal meaning of ‘to be transparent’ is ‘to shine light through’. In terms of business, being transparent means to shine the light of our values through all that we do and say. In the words of Andy Smith, co-author of The Dragonfly Effect:
‘Your values have to go into the DNA of the company in order for people to believe them. The biggest thing that unravels values is when you don’t see people living them at the company level too. Transparency and consistency are really fundamental.’1
If we do not shine the light of our values throughout all aspects of our business, we are living and working from the shadow of untruth. When we work from the shadow, there is no way for people to see us as we really are. We will not be known or trusted either within our companies or by our audience. Without Transparency, we will lose employers, partners and customers whenever we change our company focus.
But while this sounds all well and good, it begs the question: HOW we can define and communicate our values effectively and believably both within our company and to the public?
One activity that addresses this question is to write a mission statement that can underpin all the actions, decisions and behaviour of your company. Entrepreneur Magazine says that your mission statement can and should be the foundation of your business plan2. Blogger Nadia Goodman said in a blog post on their website:
‘…your company’s founding principles are the bedrock that will help you make good choices and gain a competitive edge…A founding principle is a statement of what you stand for. Today, it’s not enough to simply outline your values in the ‘About Us’ section of your website or print them in an employee manual.’3
The problem is, too many of us turn our mission statements either into a stale, academic exercise, or a place to waft lyrically without much substance. In her article ‘Five Reasons Why Your Mission Statement Probably Stinks’, Susan Gunelius says:
‘By definition, a mission statement communicates the fundamental purpose and values of a business or organization. In simpler terms, your mission statement should make it clear why your company exists. It guides decision making and keeps your business on track over the long term when micro- and macro-environmental factors can make it easy to veer off course. For example, marketing messages, brand image and new product development must complement the mission statement. Discord may lead to reduced results or worse – failure [emphasis added].’4
She goes on to describe the 5 reasons why most mission statements fail: generalisation, fluff, confusion, boredom and overspending on marketing. On this last point, she talks about how a mission statement fails when it becomes a slick, ‘hyped up’ marketing material rather than a living, breathing statement that ‘speaks for itself’.
Done incorrectly, mission statements can sometimes go so horribly wrong that they create feelings of cynicism rather than inspiration. But it would be a great disservice to conclude that we should therefore dispense with them altogether; when done properly, a good mission statement can be a golden compass within our business as well as a beacon of light to our customers.
But just HOW do we do that?
Preparing Your Mission Statement
If you’ve read my books or articles, you know that I believe good answers come from asking the right questions. Our mission statements are no different. They need to come from asking great questions that can bring us into focus about our company. To define a usable, relevant, living mission statement for our business, we first need to ask the same kinds of questions any investigative reporter would when putting together a story: what, why, who, how, and possibly also when and where. In other words, we need to ask:
- WHAT: In a sentence or two, what are your company’s core values?
- WHY: Why does your company exist? Clearly state the social impact you wish to create through your business.
- WHO: Who (or what) will this most benefit? Be as specific as possible. You might also need to ask ‘Where?’ if your ‘Who’ is geographically based.
- HOW: How will your company express your values and bring this social impact to these people (or places or things)? Provide clear examples at a concrete, practical level. This might need you to bring in the ‘When’ question if this is a project seeking to achieve something specific within a given time-frame.
Applying Our Values at a Practical Level
Speaking for my own work, the 7 Graces are my primary values: Connection, Inspiration, Invitation, Directness, Transparency, Abundance and Collaboration. These are the forces I wish to guide and inform all my business ventures, activities and decisions, be they within the 7 Graces Project, my private consulting work, my writing or anything else I do.
To that end, I’ve formed (with the help of colleagues) mission statements on my websites with specific reference to how we apply the 7 Graces at a practical level within the context of the business. As an example of how we state or values AND use them to define the parameters of how we work as a company, here’s one paragraph from our 7 Graces Project Mission Statement, specifically addressing how we apply the Grace (or ‘value’) of Abundance:
Abundance: We will never use scarcity and fear to manipulate others into spending money. We believe there is enough in the Universe for everyone when we live in harmony and rhythm with the planet and each other. We also believe that Abundance comes in more than one form, money being only part of it. When we work with you, we also want to help you cultivate abundant business relationships, content, confidence and knowledge. Additionally, we foster environmental abundance in our book publishing company, Humanity 1 Press. At H1P, we never print in bulk (we print each individual book ‘on demand’ when someone buys one), and we always hire printers whose paper comes from FSI certified sustainable sources.
You can read the rest of the mission statement to see how we define each of the values at a practical level at http://the7gracesofmarketing.com/our-mission/.
A great mission statement does not have to be long, but it does have to be clear. Defining your values and the ‘who, why, what and how’ of your business is imperative both for you and your customers. Giving clear examples of your baseline behaviour and how it aligns with those values keeps your company on track and gives your ideal customers the confidence to come into your ‘tribe’. Make the defining (or redefining) of your mission statement your FIRST priority whenever you feel your company lacks focus and direction, or when decisions become difficult as you change and grow.
And lastly, making a great mission statement IS an example of the 7 Graces in action:
- It fosters the Grace of Connection with Self, your business, your audience and your marketing.
- It is the embodiment of the Grace of Inspiration, as it breathes life into your company.
- It is the Grace of Invitation as it creates the space for customers and employees to ‘buy into’ the mission.
- It is the Grace of Directness because it compels you to crystallise and clarify your values and social impact.
- It is the Grace of Transparency because it is the vehicle for shining the light of your values through your business.
- It is the Grace of Abundance because it should give you a sense of expansiveness, hope and possibility.
- It is the Grace of Collaboration because it should be something that comes from the soul of your company–your staff, your partners, your customers–not just from your own brain and not from a hired marketing team.
I hope this article has inspired you to revisit your own mission statement. Feel free to share the link to your mission in the comments below, and do share your reflections about the process you experienced as you created it.
1. Smith, Andy. 2010. Workbook for The Dragonfly Effect. Jossey-Bass Publishers. Retrieved 30 June 2013 http://www.dragonflyeffect.com/blog/book/.
2. Entrepreneur Magazine. October 30, 2003. ‘How to Write Your Mission Statement’. Retrieved 30 June 2013 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65230#ixzz2XiewpI9e.
3. Goodman, Nadia. June 25, 2012. ‘Why Your Company’s Founding Principles Matter’. Entrepreneur Magazine’s Blog. Retrieved 30 June 2013 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/223853
4. Susan Gunelius, April 29, 2011. ‘Five Reasons Why Your Mission Statement Probably Stinks’. Entrepreneur Magazine’s Blog. Retrieved 30 June 2013 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/219544.
2nd August 2013
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Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)