I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: your mission statement is the single most important piece of content you have. Your mission statement is your rallying cry to every person within your organization and the foundation upon which every other piece of content or decision your organization makes.
No pressure right?
I have been moderating and helping visionaries create mission and vision statements since before I founded BrandVox. And with every group I facilitate, the biggest challenge is figuring out where to start. Most would just jump in and start brainstorming full sentences. The problem with this approach is that when we are taught to write growing up, we were taught to use lots of adjectives to describe things. Adjectives are useful creative writing, but in a mission statement they are bulky. If you want to write a mission statement that packs a punch - that is really powerful - you need the right verb.
Here is an exercise that I developed that will help you discover that powerful action verb your mission statement needs to be succinct, engaging, and powerful.
Action Verb Exercise
Below is a downloadable list of 126 action verbs that I took from my Top 50 Non-Profit Mission Statements list and my Top 50 For-Profit Mission Statements list (plus a few more I thought were effective). Download and print this list and cut out all of the verbs into labels. Trust me, this works better than you think!
Next, lay the labels out on a table so that you can see them all. Read each one out loud and do a gut check. Yes or no: Does this verb resonate with your brand?
Now that you have some verbs narrowed down, start trying to match nouns with the verbs. Here’s where a dialogue will start to happen as you try to pair nouns with your action verbs. You will start to form some sentences that may or may not work. What’s important is the dialogue that happens during this process.
From here, you should be able to come up with a mission statement that defines your brand. Be sure that your mission statement is short (under 7 words), has inspirational or aspirational language, and packs a punch. Before you leave the room with the final sentence ask yourselves: Is this a rally cry? Does this drive us to get up every morning and do what we do? If not, go back to the drawing board.
Why does this work?
First, it’s a starting point - the hardest part is knowing where to start. Second, it’s a dialogue starter. Third, the hardest part of the process is finding that first word. In this exercise, your choices are laid out for you. The reason we choose vague words like “help” in our mission statement is because it’s the first word we go to. When you use a verb like “help” or “make”, you end up convoluting the mission statement with adjectives instead of empowering the statement with a strong verb. Using the right verbs lets you avoid all of those adjectives and leads to a better mission statement in the end.
Remember, your mission statement is the most important piece of content you write for your brand.
Try this exercise out and tell me how it went in the comment section.
Here are some other posts to check out: