A solid content marketing strategy does not occur by accident, but instead through intention. The article below shares how creating a mission statement to drive your content marketing approach is worth the effort. CK
Article written by Jodi Harris originally appeared in Content Marketing Institute on July 23, 2020.
Why does your company create content? Who is it for? What will it do for them?
Why? Because if you don’t know what someone will gain from consuming your brand’s content, your audience won’t see a compelling reason to engage with it.
A lack of answers also makes it harder to choose relevant topics, formats, and delivery channels.
Fortunately, there’s a straightforward way to frame the answers to all of these questions so everyone involved with your content (planners, producers, and consumers) will know: Write a content mission statement.
What’s a content mission statement?
A content mission statement is one of the three key components of every brand’s content marketing strategy. A content mission statement is a centering principle of your brand’s content and it can govern your content team’s creative and strategic decision-making.
A strong content mission statement reflects your business values and helps you distinguish your storytelling from other content competing for your audience’s attention.
It can also inform content decisions on the creative side, including:
- The kinds of stories your brand will tell (e.g., the topics to focus on)
- How those stories take shape (e.g., core content formats and platforms)
- How the content assets work collectively to create a desirable experience for your audience
Here’s a brief overview of what you need to build a content mission statement for your business:
3 pieces of the mission statement puzzle
A great content mission statement details three elements:
- Core audience – who you aim to help with your content
- What will be delivered – the kind of information you provide
- Outcome or benefit – things your audience could do because of your content
On the Orbit Media blog, Andy Crestodina lays out a simple formula: “Our company [or blog or site] is where [Audience X] finds [Content Y] for [Benefit Z] (with ‘our company’ referring to everything your business creates, publishes, and shares with its customers).”
Let’s look at how to fill the x, y, z:
Audience is your who
Your business likely has multiple audiences. Your mission statement should focus on the audience segment for whom your content can do the most good – i.e., where you can serve an unmet need, deliver value in areas that your competitors may have overlooked, or address a critical knowledge gap or other obstacle that may be preventing your audience from achieving its goals.
To narrow your focus, look at your most pressing marketing goal and ask which audience can best help you achieve it. For example, maybe the goal is loyalty and the audience is those who have purchased from your business. Or it could be an audience with whom your sales team has struggled to get traction.
Look at the general company mission statement that sits at the top of Autodesk’s site:
Autodesk makes software for people who make things. If you’ve ever driven a high-performance car, admired a towering skyscraper, used a smartphone, or watched a great film, chances are you’ve experienced what millions of Autodesk customers are doing with our software.
While its software tools encompass dozens of applications that benefit companies across multiple industries, Autodesk targets the people who make things – designers, engineers, builders, manufacturers, and artists – not the purchase decision-makers at the corporations where those things get made.
It’s a focus that flows through all of the company’s content, from its knowledge network that helps makers learn to use its tools to make better things to the inspiring maker stories on its Autodesk University site.
Another great example comes from the media brand The Hustle, which includes a telling phrase in its company mission statement:
(O)ur mission at The Hustle is to keep you informed through a daily email, highlighting a handful of topical stories and adding perspective and color to make it easy to understand. So, if you’re fed up with traditional media and ready to try something new, join our charge and the millions of others who believe what you believe.
While most publishers consider “keeping our audience informed” to be core to their mission, The Hustle appeals to a subset of that broad audience – those who are dissatisfied with the way traditional media outlets select and report on current events.
Remember: Lots of consumers might benefit from purchasing your products or services, but they don’t all have the same needs, interests, or reasons for doing so. As CMI founder Joe Pulizzi pointed out, if you create catch-all content designed to target everybody, it likely won’t be valuable to anybody.
Benefit is your audience’s why
Once you determine the audience, summarize the distinct benefits it will receive from engaging with your content.
Audience personas provide a clear picture of your target audience’s most pressing needs. (If you don’t have these on hand, we have a quick and easy guide to building audience personas.)
But you also must account for the reasons your business is suited to deliver on those audience needs and how your approach stands out from other brands your audience might engage with.
Take another look at The Hustle mission statement and notice two characteristics that speak to audience benefits:
- “highlighting a handful of topical stories”
- “adding perspective and color to make it easy to understand”
Selecting stories they feel subscribers will want to see (something time-crunched media consumers can certainly appreciate) and making those stories easy to understand are meaningful benefits for all audience members who have ever read a news story only to wonder what the deeper implications are or how it might affect them personally.
As you create your mission statement, think about what you can do for your audience that other content resources aren’t or what informational needs it has that your content competitors aren’t satisfying. Determining that will help you pinpoint opportunities to highlight your unique areas of expertise and distinct brand advantages without making your content all about you.
Content is your how
Identifying your audience and content benefits are relatively straightforward decisions, as your marketing analytics and competitive research efforts can help inform those elements.
But your mission statement also needs to account for how your brand’s content provides a personally resonant and uniquely valuable experience to your audience. That’s not something you can base solely on logic and data since there’s a strong emotional component involved.
As a brand, what is it that you value most? What subjects do you have the most passion about, deepest experiences with, or more authority and insight on than any other content creator in your space? The answers are how you discover the stories your brand was meant to tell – and how you compel your audience to want to engage with them.
For example, take a look at this blog mission statement from Moz:
The industry’s top wizards, doctors, and other experts offer their best advice, research, how-tos, and insights – all in the name of helping you level-up your SEO and online marketing skills.
Two things in this statement emphasize the audience benefits: (1) level-up your SEO and online marketing skills and (2) collaboration with top industry experts to deliver that assistance. Who doesn’t want to learn from the most experienced experts without having to gather those insights themselves?
As another example, consider the mission statement for Airbnb Magazine:
“Be at home in the world.
“Airbnb Magazine celebrates humanity wherever it exists: across borders, time zones, languages, and skin tones. We believe that travel is transformative, and key to building bridges in increasingly strained societies.
“We champion commonality and connection, and spotlight the experiences made possible when we are open with each other and curious to explore the world—and ourselves.”
Airbnb doesn’t focus its content mission around transactional accommodation elements or even the exciting locations in which it operates (things that you’d expect to find in content from any travel and tourism business). Instead, it highlights its passion for the aspirational qualities of travel – how it helps people connect with others, find common ground, and satisfy their curiosity about the world (and themselves) through unique personal experiences.
Who does your brand want to be?
Not only can creating a content mission statement help you determine what kinds of stories will fit your company’s vision of marketing success – and which ones won’t – it can also highlight the principles and priorities your business is most passionate about. For the audiences that share those passions, it’s a meaningful differentiator that will set the stage for increased engagement, greater trust, and deeper loyalty.