Visions, Missions and Values
A well put guide to writing statements that rock
A client recently said to me, “…it’s funny how the bits which end up having the smallest number of words take the longest to write.”
And she’s right of course, the first thing to get your head round is that whichever – vision, mission or value – statement you’re writing, this is an area where less is definitely more.
For you, for your customers
Distilling words into impactful essence requires thoughtful mining into the why, what, who for and how of your business – your brand.
Orienting and explanatory, visions, missions and values have to work on a number of levels. They have to be both inward and outward-looking: working for and guiding you and your team (if you have one), and also resonating with, and communicating to, your customers.
Clarity and consistency are key to helping people remember you.
The terms themselves can cause confusion: here’s a simple way of separating them:
Vision answers the question: “Where are you going?” The answer is an aspiration for the future, a mental picture of a specific medium term goal that inspires and keeps you moving forward.
Save the Children: “Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.”
Microsoft: “A computer on every desk in every home.”
Mission answers “Who are you?” the what you do, how you do it, who you do it for and the value you bring. It states purpose and should blend realism with a degree of optimism, closely aligning with your values.
Innocent: “Make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old.”
Google: “Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Values are the “what drives you.” They guide and lead, an internal navigation system that permeates how you do business and gives your customers emotional touch-points they can identify and connect with.
Zappos (selection): “build a positive team and family spirit;” “do more with less;” “be humble.”
[The New York Inquirer tells the news] “honestly, quickly, simply and entertainingly.” From Charles Foster Kane’s “Declaration of Principles” in the 1941 film, ‘Citizen Kane’
It’s not compulsory
Of course there’s no rule that says you need all, any, or a combination of these on your website or company literature. Even if you choose to simply craft a strapline – a pithy explanation to accompany your business name – going through and answering the questions above will give plenty of food for thought and improve what you come up with.
In fact, being able to answer the questions vision, mission and value statements call for, can’t help but offer direction and a yardstick for you to measure your progress against. As a bonus it will also have you talking more confidently about what you do and why customers should choose you.
4 key areas your words should address
Content: what you’re saying should be compelling
Tone: how you say it – for example, approachable, warm, reassuring, matter-of-fact, no-frills – should reinforce that content
Context: what you’re saying should fit in with how you do business and the rest of your marketing materials
Searchability: don’t lose sight of the keywords and search terms that are important to customers looking to use your products or services
Tell the truth but don’t tell all
Everything you come up with should ring true, be specific and measurable. You can’t and shouldn’t even try, to say it all. A good thing to ask yourself is: “If everything else disappeared, what is the one thing I would want people to remember me for?”
And if it’s inspiration you’re after, look at the competition and search through quotes and aphorisms that cover your particular area or a value you’ve identified. You may well find new and imaginative ways of conveying what you’re all about.
Vision and mission statements and values are not set in stone, permanent, never to be changed. You and your business will undoubtedly evolve and your words should be revisited and updated to reflect changes. Just don’t fall into the trap of constant tweaking and revising your words every few weeks.
And do get some help
This really is one area where you’ll benefit from getting an objective outsider’s point of view – pick someone who can take a step back and be critical and honest.
Even better, speak to a copywriter!
We’re well-versed in seeing businesses from every each angle. I love nothing more than turning archaeologist, miner, confessor and storyteller (to name but a few) to turn out stellar vision, mission and value statements for my clients.