Content marketers — like newspaper editors and magazine publishers — must understand why they create content and for whom it is intended. A written, editorial mission statement for a blog or social media channel can help focus content creation and build an audience.
In fact, your editorial mission statement (or statements) should produce at least three benefits for your marketing organization and a given content marketing effort.
- Consistent focus. A documented editorial mission helps your content marketing stay on course.
- Unified content producers. If your content team includes several writers, the editorial mission statement can help bring those authors together creatively.
- Help saying no. When you have a clear editorial mission, it is easier to say no to projects that don’t carry that mission forward.
What Is an Editorial Mission Statement?
Modern retail businesses are really in three industries: retail, software, and publishing. Essentially, content marketing is publishing. To be effective at content marketing, retail marketers should try to emulate successful media companies.
“There is one thing that media companies do with their content planning that nonmedia companies do not. Do you know what it is?” wrote Joe Pulizzi, C.E.O. and founder of Content Marketing Institute, in his book, Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses.
“It’s the editorial mission statement. Media companies start their strategies by developing an editorial mission statement that guides their content creation efforts and serves as a beacon for the overall business.”
At its most basic, an editorial or content marketing mission statement should answer three questions.
- Who is your core audience?
- What do you give your core audience?
- How does your content help your core audience?
In his book, Pulizzi used Inc. magazine’s editorial mission statement as an example.
Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners find useful information, advice, insights, resources, and inspiration for running and growing their businesses.
The editorial mission statement’s three aims can be picked out easily.
- The core audience is “entrepreneurs and business owners.”
- The thing provided or given to them is “useful information, advice, insights…. “
- The benefit for the audience is help “running and growing their businesses.”
More recently, in a Content Marketing Institute article Pulizzi used Cosmopolitan magazine’s editorial mission as an example.
To empower young women to own who they are and be who they want to be, and we’re focused on propelling her into her fun, fearless future. No excuses, no bull@#*%, no regrets.
- The core audience is “young women.”
- The material delivered to them is meant to “empower.”
- Ultimately readers should be propelled into a “fun, fearless future.”
How to Develop Your Mission Statement
There are likely as many methods for developing a content marketing or editorial mission statement as there are marketing consultants.
The most direct method, however, might simply be to answer the same three questions described above.
Who is your core audience? Do the research to know specifically whom you want to reach. Find out what questions, concerns, or problems your audience has. Do your best to understand their needs and interests.
What do you give your core audience? Specifically, what sort of content will you offer them? Will it be informational, educational, or entertaining?
How does your content help your core audience? What outcome should readers expect when they visit your blog? How does the content your business creates help or entertain your audience?
To put this together into a single statement, many experts suggest a “verb, target, outcome” pattern.
If your business sold educational toys, your blog’s content marketing mission statement might be: “Teach boys and girls to love math and science.”
Notice, first, the pattern.
- Verb: “Teach”
- Target: “boys and girls”
- Outcome: “love math and science.”
Next, notice the three questions are answered.
- Who is your core audience? Boys and girls.
- What do you give your core audience? Educational content (i.e., “Teach”)
- How does your content help your core audience? Encourage a love of math and science.
Avoid Mission Statement Language, Clichés
Corporate mission statements are usually bad and unhelpful.
Conceptually, corporate mission statements are a good idea for many of the same reasons that an editorial mission statement is being advocated here. But somehow these seemingly noble instruments — corporate mission statements — have, in general, lost their way.
Author and speaker Greg McKeown wrote an article for Harvard Business Review, titled “If I Read One More Platitude-Filled Mission Statement, I’ll Scream.”
In the article, McKeown asks readers to play a little matching game. He describes three real companies and encourages folks to match these companies to their actual mission statements.
The task is impossible. For example, the mission statement for the company selling farm tractors is indistinguishable from the mission statement for the company selling circuit boards in spite of the fact these companies serve significantly different customers.
Here is an example of one of these bad mission statements:
To be the leader in every market we serve to the benefit of our customers and our shareholders.
This statement is meaningless. It doesn’t define who the company’s customers are or what the company does.
When you develop your editorial mission statement, avoid the corporate mission statement trap. Be as specific about who your core audience is, what you provide for that audience, and what the result is for them.