Storytelling is the foundation for every corporate public relations program. I spend a lot of time working with companies on developing and refining their core stories – or what we refer to as a company’s “master narrative.” Like all great stories, there needs to be a centrally defined focus – a purpose that brings together the main characters and the plot and makes the story all worth telling. The business equivalent is a company’s mission, the articulation of why an organization exists.
At a time when many corporate leaders are battling extreme global competition, evolving regulation and consolidation, articulating why the company is in business should be the easy part, right? Wrong. Surprisingly, I have found that the single biggest stumbling block executives have when thinking about their companies is agreeing on the very essence of what they do and why. Many have the most trouble getting back to the basics and stripping away superfluous language that can water down or even distort the mission.
So who is getting it right? Take a look at a few of my favorites:
Zappos: “Wow” philosophy “to provide the best customer service possible.”
JetBlue: “Bring humanity back to air travel”
Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
McDonald’s: “To be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat.”
I list four very different businesses and four very different missions, yet they all have one thing in common: they get at the very essence of why they are in business, simply and cleanly. You don’t need a PhD to understand what they do, who they do it for and why they do it. You immediately get why their people come to work every day and while it’s not to cure cancer, abolish poverty or another of the world’s intractable problems, they are inspiring in their own right.
And why should a company care? Mission statements have been directly linked to greater returns on investment, and return on equity has been found to be more than double in companies with a written mission statement.
Telling your company’s story with a strong mission at the core has the ability to rally employees, inspire customers and keep the company on track when it verges on losing its way. When thinking about your own business, remember that a mission statement is more than words on paper, and often what’s not there is even more telling. Less can be more. Go ahead and bare all!