Why that grand mission statement is a big turn-off

Forget about the mission statement… at least when you are trying to convince an audience about your product or service.

Most mission statements are earnest expressions of good intentions. And great cures for insomnia.

Here’s an example of deadly dull they can be: “The mission of the National Outdoor Leadership School is to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.”

Most mission statements are bloated and self-serving. Fluffy statements of the blindingly obvious.

But that’s not why they should never be dusted off in public.

The biggest problem with mission statements is that they are intended for internal consumption only. They are not meant to be seen or heard in public.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve asked clients to express their core message, and they trot out some phrase that’s had the blood drained out of it. They look genuinely puzzled when we roll our eyes and say ‘do you really want people to get excited about THAT?’

If you are hoping to get some traction in the media, or to be a hit at a speech or presentation, you need to look way beyond the mission statement.

Your message needs to be about how you help people. How you make their lives better, or safer, or more fun. How you save them money, or time, or trouble. How you make their homes or their offices run more smoothly.

Effective messaging talks about what you do – from the clients’ perspective.

So before you start bragging about being ‘the leading teacher of wilderness skills’, pause. Ask yourself how people’s lives will change because of the skills you will teach them. What will they be able to do that they couldn’t do before? How will they feel about that? How much more confident will they feel about dealing with a crisis in the woods or on the hills? They could have more fun, they could have bigger adventures. Maybe they could save lives.

What’s the highest expression of the benefit of your service or product? When you are figuring out your key message, see how high you can raise the stakes.

When you’ve found the highest honest expression of your message – you are ready to wow any audience.

(This posting is an edited version of an article that appeared in our January newsletter. If you are not already a subscriber, sign up on this page to get your free monthly digest of great tips to make you a better communicator).

Leave a comment