Updated January 20, 2022
Why does your company create content? Who is it for? What will it do for them?
If you don’t know the answers, you need to figure them out. And you should do so before you create anything more for the company blog, website, newsletters, or any other content platform.
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 content mission statement answers the why, who, and what of your #content, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet
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.Ask which audience can best help you achieve the most pressing #marketing goal, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
You can also take your cues from your company’s corporate mission statement. For example, consider the mission statement that sits in the center of Autodesk’s About Us page:
Autodesk’s mission is to empower innovators with design and make technology so they can achieve the new possible. Our technology spans architecture, engineering and construction, product design and manufacturing, and media and entertainment, empowering innovators everywhere to solve challenges big and small.
While its software tools encompass dozens of applications that benefit companies across multiple industries, Autodesk chooses to target innovators and makers – designers, engineers, architects, manufacturers, and artists – not just the buying committees at the corporations where those things get made.
Though it’s not a dedicated “content mission,” per se, the statement highlights a focus that also flows through all of the content Autodesk produces, from its education-focused technology centers that empower the maker community to adopt the latest creation and testing techniques to the inspiring maker stories on its Autodesk University site. If your content program is new or hasn’t quite found it’s unique tilt yet, try adapting your corporate mission statement to speak to how the values described extend to the content you create.
Another great example comes from the media brand The Hustle, which has crafted a mission statement in the same irreverent, no-nonsense tone it uses to deliver need-to-know information in its daily newsletters:
We make it easy for you to make smart business decisions fast.
You see, there’s a massive amount of information that you, our dear reader, do not have access to. Whether you’re too busy, don’t know the right people, don’t know where to look – whatever. It’s our mission to unlock that information and give it to you in an easy to consume format.
While most publishers consider “keeping our audience informed” to be core to their mission, The Hustle speaks to a common source of frustration for that audience – their fear of missing out on the most powerful and provocative information available.
Remember: Lots of consumers might benefit from selecting your products or services over others, but they don’t all have the same needs, interests, or motivations 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.
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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.Detail why your business is suited to deliver and stand out with the #content your audience needs, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
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.
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Content is your how
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 Ikea Behind the Scenes, a story-driven, personal experience-centric blog that sits within the company’s Life at Home portfolio of content offerings:
Consider this page your backstage pass – come on inside and follow IKEA products on their journey from idea to prototype to finished product. You will meet product developers, designers, engineers, and suppliers and experience the Democratic Design process in action through snapshots of home visits and design work on factory floors. There will be surprises and failures as well as successes, but it will never be boring. Welcome behind the scenes at IKEA!
Ikea smartly emphasizes that before its home furnishing and decor products become daily fixtures in the lives of its customers, there’s an entire supply chain of people working behind the scenes to shape and build them. It’s all part of a journey, and that Ikea is willing to put every step of it on display on its digital content “show floor” (warts and all) illustrates the company’s commitment to thoughtful design.
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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.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute