Mission Statements that Work

Few editors have mission statements that guide their work and decisions day by day. But a mission statement can be a practical working document, and if it's well-written it can accomplish four things for a publication.

1. The mission statement is a blueprint

Study a well-written mission statement, and you have a pretty good set of directions for putting together an issue. When you are planning, choosing articles, making the dozens of daily decisions that go into editing, go back to the mission statement and ask if it fits.

2. The mission statement creates unity

When everyone is singing in tune, it sounds much better. When the editors, the designer, the publisher, the proofreader, et. al., have the same mission clearly in mind, it not only results in a better product but in a harmony that turns the staff into a team.

3. The mission statement is a measuring stick

How do you know when you're meeting your goal? Bu comparing what you've done with what you've said you're going to do? Read the mission statement every time you evaluate the publication and ask, "Did we do what we set out to do? Does this issue reflect our intentions?" The mission statement provides your absolutes, until, of course, you decide to change it.

4. The mission statement is the keel when the boat rocks

When someone comes along and says, "Why are doing this?" or "Why aren't we doing that?" you haul out the mission statement and say, "Look! Here's what we wrote."

Enlarge the boundaries

We often think of the mission statement as that concise declaration that sums up who we are, and that is certainly at the heart of it. But I use the term to describe a larger document. Following is a step-by-step outline for creating such a document. Make the writing of it a team project, involving everyone, even if that's only you and your spouse.

Keep it front and center

What you do once you have your missions statement is as important as the process of writing it.

  • Send copies to everyone.
  • Make sure everyone has read it.
  • Discuss it.
  • Frame it and hang it on the wall.
  • Drag it out frequently and refer to it at meetings.
  • Print it in your publication.

Be willing to change

In the end, of course, the mission statement is not the inspired Word of God. The time will come to change it. The culture changes, the organization changes, the technology changes. Don't change your mission statement every time you change your socks, but don't hang on to a statement that has was written for conditions that no longer exist.

How to write a mission statement that works

A. Analyze the situation

  1. Relevant history of the publication
  2. Relationship of the publication to the parent organization
  3. Current social/cultural factors affecting the publication
  4. How the publication is funded
  5. Specific problems now facing the publication

B. Describe the audience

  1. Demographics: Age, education, income level, etc.
  2. Psychographics: Attitudes, beliefs (entrepreneurs, family-oriented, altruistic, work ethic, etc.)

C. Write a purpose statement

  • A concise statement of what your publication is all about, this is the heart of the document. It should stem from the mission statement of the parent organization, if there is one. Your specific objectives stem from this statement. (Avoid broad statements such as, "to spread the gospel.")

D. State your objectives

  • What do you want to see happen after someone reads your publication? Be specific.

E. Identify steps to reaching your objectives

  • Once you have a clear idea of what you want to see happen, you can plan the content of the publication. What articles and material will get the results stated above?

F. Description of appearance

  • What will the publication look like? Will it be a newspaper or a magazine? Slick or pulp? Popular or academic? Print-heavy, or mostly photos and art? Color or black-and-white? (The answers to these questions depend on those above.)

G. Means to evaluate the publication

  1. Hold an editorial party and talk about the issue.
  2. Review the issue in light of your written objectives.
  3. Review the objectives with the management.
  4. Use outside evaluators. Form an editorial board.
  5. Do reader research.
  6. Apply a readability formula to the prose.

Ron Wilson is a former executive director of the Evangelical Press Association.