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Make communication central to achieving your organization’s mission
Successful accomplishment of your organization’s mission depends heavily on effective communication.
Organizational mission or purpose provides a consistent guide for strategic decisions. Once the statement is finalized, many other vital management practices should flow from it such as strategic planning, culture and values development, employee engagement, and communication strategy.
Top management and strategy teams work hard to develop a mission statement. It is important for the head of communication to be included in this development process because a good mission statement relates to key stakeholders, especially employees, customers, shareholders, and financiers, who are the domain of the communication function.
A mission statement can be written for any organization, large and small, including individual business units and departments within an organization, and PR consultancies.
A mission statement is different from a vision statement, which states where the organization wishes to be, its desired state at a future time if management’s intentions are achieved.
For practical purposes a mission statement is the same as a purpose statement, although some people argue they are separate concepts. They maintain a mission statement focuses on the business the entity is in – the ‘what’ and ‘how’ – while a purpose statement may deal with the ‘why’ – the reason why the organization wishes to improve the lives of stakeholders. However, the mission statement can cover all this.
Here are some good examples of organizational mission statements of high-profile companies:
Quite often organizations will use different terms for the corporate mission, eg priorities, purpose, ‘lofty objective’ (Warby Parker), ‘Credo’ (Johnson & Johnson), strategy, primary objective, etc.
Sometimes management will get carried away and come up with a ‘mission statement’ that is too vague and generic to be useful. For instance, the non-profit Life is Good uses the ‘one simple, unifying mission: spread the power of optimism.’ Same with a couple of companies selected at random from the Fortune 500 company list:
Sample organization and department mission statements
Castle Oil Corporation
Mission of the PR/communication department
Many business units such as operating divisions develop their own mission to support the organization’s mission. And in turn, the PR department can develop its own mission statement to clarify its role and direction. The mission of the typical PR department is to:
Sample mission statements
Edelman (biggest PR firm in the world)
Levenson Public Relations, Dallas Texas
Bertelsmann media, services and education company
State University of New York - Potsdam
US Department of State – Bureau of Public Affairs
Mission keeps the organization on course
Gallup research shows that a compelling purpose promotes organizational success in measurable ways, including higher profitability, fewer accidents and lower turnover. Here are specific steps organizations can take to reap the benefits of working to a mission or purpose. All these steps require astute communication supported by your leaders:
The mission statement remains a core reference point and inspiration in the digital age. However, its importance can sometimes be overlooked due to busy day-to-day activities. In fact, some leaders don’t think too much about it once it is developed, which can lessen forward momentum.
Many executives don't realize a mission statement is an under-used asset in improving organizational performance and profitability, and as a result they neglect their ultimate responsibility of aligning their brand and culture with their highest purpose.
This means there is a disconnect between what the organization professes and what employees perceive. Most leaders and managers are failing to connect employees with their company's mission or to sustain a purpose-driven culture. For instance, in my own corporate career I can’t think of an employer that consistently, or even occasionally, used its mission as a compass point for organizational direction, decision-making or communication. This is a sad reflection on executives who paid only lip service to the importance of the concept.
What’s worse – advice from experts like Leandro Herrero is that often the most powerful leadership instructions are the ones that are unsaid. If the organizational leaders neglect to support the mission, employees take notice of this implicit direction.
Unless your people know their core mission or purpose, and they specifically support the intention expressed in the mission statement, and act to accomplish that mission, the end results will fall short of good intentions.
One of the questions in Gallup’s famous 12-question survey on employee engagement, asks respondents: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”
Although two thirds of senior managers in a typical company strongly agree with the question, less than one third of frontline workers do. Effective communication plays a large part in addressing the frontline deficiency.
The communication role
Leadership is communication. A survey of 1,400 leaders, managers and executives by the Ken Blanchard group (he is author of the famous business book, The One Minute Manager) found the ability to communicate appropriately is an essential component of effective leadership. Around 43% of respondents identified communication skills as the most critical skill set, while 41% identified the inappropriate use of communication as the number one mistake leaders make.
The formulation of a mission statement requires communication at every stage – and the head of communication/PR should insist on being directly involved with their organizational leaders in the whole process to ensure it is communicated effectively. The stages would be:
How communicators can help at the frontline
Research shows that employees are the most important stakeholder group. When they are on board, various performance indicators improve, such as increased revenue and profitability.
Communication to employees supporting the mission should promote commitment to the organization and help to bolster their sense of belonging. This communication should also strengthen awareness of the changing operating environment for their employer as well as increase their understanding and support of the organizational mission and goals, directly and indirectly.
It is difficult to translate macro mission statement and strategies into concepts relevant to frontline workers. However, it is worth trying to break down the high-level concepts into terms and practical KPIs that workers can understand and support.
A valuable activity is to meet with key influencers among frontline workers and hold a discussion or at least focus group/s to find out what is important to them to try to bridge the gap between the cascade down and the cascade up. The kinds of useful questions that can be asked can be like these:
Talk about these questions -- and the answers – with the workers, and invite them all to respond. Listen carefully to what they say, and help them to craft their local missions that support the organizational mission statement.
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