By Michele Linn published October 23, 2015 Est Read Time: 6 min

The One Brief Statement That Will Refine Your Content Marketing

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Do you know exactly who you are creating content for and why? What does your brand stand for and why do you publish?

Does everyone in your organization know why?

If you – and everybody in your company – can answer yes, congratulations! You have one of the key components you need to be successful at content marketing. You also are in the minority of content marketers.

If you are like most marketers – and their teams – you don’t clearly understand the who and the why for your content and your brand. Not only does this provide a lackluster and inconsistent experience for your audience members who aren’t sure what they’ll get from your brand, but it can make you feel like you are spinning your wheels because content created for everyone satisfies no one.

In short, you need a documented editorial mission statement.

I can’t express how important the editorial mission statement is. If you don’t have one – or if you are uncertain if you do – I urge you to read on to learn how this simple statement can transform your content and give you more power to prioritize.

Introductory questions about editorial mission statements are answered below.

Even better, check out this insightful conversation from this year’s B2B research roundtable hosted by the Content Marketing Institute. Joining the conversation with Linda Crowe, vice president, digital marketing solutions of Brightcove, are Ardath Albee, B2B marketing strategist with Marketing Interactions and author of Digital Relevance; Vishal Khanna, director of digital marketing for Wake Forest Innovations; Carla Johnson, president of Type A Communications and co-author of Experiences, the 7th Era of Marketing; and Jeannine Rossignol, vice president of marketing for Xerox Consulting and Analytics Services.

What is an editorial statement?

Let’s start with the basics. As Ardath explains, an editorial mission defines:

  • Who you are as a company
  • Who you are trying to reach
  • How you’re going to reach them
  • What you want to accomplish when you do

In short, it is your guiding light when creating content, as it focuses on who your audience is and how you’ll serve them. It should be the measuring stick by which you evaluate all of your editorial (this cannot be overstated!).

How prevalent are editorial mission statements?

For years, Joe Pulizzi has been preaching about the importance of an editorial statement – which he also calls the content marketing mission statement – and he believes it’s a key to effectiveness. As he says:

Brands create this kind of detail for their products and services, but almost never about the content they are using to attract and retain customers. And that is exactly why most branded content is just awful.

So, this year we added a question about editorial mission statements to our annual research to see how prevalent editorial mission statements are – and how they impact effectiveness.

As you will see from the chart below, 28% of all B2B marketers surveyed have an editorial statement – and 48% of effective marketers have one.


How are editorial mission statements helpful?

Research indicates editorial mission statements are one of the essential components in an effective marketer’s arsenal. Why? There are several reasons.

It helps you focus – and say no: Ideas abound, and people are suggesting new content ideas every day, right? Without an editorial mission, it’s tough to evaluate and prioritize what you should tackle. You find yourself thinking, “This is a good idea,” without considering if it will help you advance your mission. As Carla asserts:

Having that mission helps people understand that, not just what to say yes to but what to say no to.

Once you have your mission in place, you’ll realize how powerful it is to say no when you can provide a reason. (Ardath provides an example of how she does this in the video.)

An editorial mission:

Offers writers a framework – As Vishal explains, when you have multiple writers covering the same topic, the editorial mission “keeps everybody on track and keeps them all creating a single voice in all their various channels.” This is especially essential as your team grows and as your brand seeks to differentiate itself from the competition.

Saves moneyA Gallup report says 41% of all employees don’t event know what the company stands for. That creates big problems. Carla explains:

Look at the financial impact of the cost of disengaged employees if they don’t know what the company stands for. In the U.S. alone, it’s like $400 to $500 billion a year. So, there’s a big price tag to that.

How do you create an editorial mission?

As Carla points out, an editorial mission is not a tagline nor is it about the products you sell. As Joe has explained, it needs to cover three things:

  1. Core audience target – type of person you can help most with your content
  2. Deliverables to the audience – types of information you will provide through your content (how your story is different)
  3. Desired outcome for the audience – things your audience will be able to do once they have consumed your content (what’s in it for your audience)

Jeannine offers this question, which is another good way to put your editorial mission into perspective:

If I went away tomorrow, what’s the gap that would be there?

Can I use our business mission as our editorial mission?

An editorial mission statement is not the mission for the company. It is not the brand mission. These missions may overlap but usually don’t. A company mission is what the company aspires to be, and the content mission is what the brand thinks is best for the audience.

Can I have more than one mission statement?

Yes. Your organization may have multiple editorial mission statements depending how many audiences you have. But, if you are just getting started, focus on your core audience.

How can I get the most from our mission statement?

Your editorial mission is something you – and everyone on your team – need to internalize. It is the measuring stick by which you evaluate everything you do.

Not only should you document it, but you should post it on your wall so you think about it all the time.

What does an editorial mission statement look like?

In his book, Content Inc., Joe shares a couple of editorial missions including this one from Digital Photography School:

Welcome to Digital Photography School – a website with simple tips to help digital camera owners get the most out of their cameras.

As you see, the mission includes the three areas: the audience (digital camera owners), what the site delivers (simple tips), and what the audience will get from this (ways to get the most from their cameras).

I’m on the lookout for more great editorial mission statements. Do you have one or know of others? Please share them in the comments.

A documented content marketing strategy offers a helpful foundation from which to create your editorial mission statement. Learn how to create a documented content marketing strategy by downloading CMI’s 16-page guide.

View the other B2C and B2B research videos in these roundtable discussions:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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