“We mean business.” Pretty short for a mission statement. But there’s more in those three simple words than most realize.

Several years ago, I worked with the Lawrence, Alabama, Chamber of Commerce to come up with a branding program that could bring all of the pieces of a large, diverse community under a single banner. The county has several municipalities, interest groups and organizations, each with its own point of view and its own purpose. And rarely did they move in the same direction at the same speed, even on topics of wide general agreement. The chamber needed a simple, direct vision statement that worked for the entire county.

And it needed to stick.

Years earlier, the chamber had embarked on a community-enhancement goal-setting mission, through which local leaders would determine where the community would be by the year 2020, and how to get there
. Though many milestones set for the “Vision 2020″ had been met, few in the community could explain the program much beyond its name. That, putting it bluntly, revealed to me a serious lack of stickiness.

The chamber’s official mission statement suffered from the same malady. That mission statement read:

We are dedicated to uniting and engaging our members to ensure the ongoing prosperity and family-oriented quality of life in Lawrence County. We strive to be a catalyst for growth and a of our members.

Perfectly serviceable mission statement, far as those things go. But who reading this blog now can recite it back, even seconds after you just read it?

For Lawrence’s “We mean business” program, we used imagery to convey these elements in such a way that everyone in the county, from students from different high schools to law enforcement to tourism, could buy into. A simple vision that everyone could accept in concept, with enough flexibility that everyone could take advantage of its power.

But you don’t need picturesque landscapes (or the Tennessee River) to make your point. You just need to get YOUR vision to stick.

My wife is a die-hard fan of the rock band U2, and has been since she first got to meet the band backstate at at concert in Munich, Germany in the early 80s. Like all U2 fans, she is also acquainted with lead singer Bono’s international charity organization, “One.”

When asked what “One” does, she recites from memory the organization’s mission statement: The campaign to end world poverty. Now, that’s a pretty clear mission statement. It says exactly what they’re doing, and I promise that if asked, you’ll still know what it is two months from now, without having to refer back to this blog (or even visiting their website).

This concept of a “sticky vision” is not new. It was originally suggested by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2000 book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and expanded by Dan Heath’s 2007 Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

Made to Stick offers six keys to a sticky vision, based on the acronym SUCCES. (Hey, what kind of a business program would it be if it didn’t have a catchy acronym?)

  • Simple — Find the core of any idea
  • Unexpected — Grab people’s attention by surprising them
  • Concrete — Make sure the idea can be grasped and remembered later
  • Credible — Give an idea believability
  • Emotion — Help people see the importance of the idea
  • Stories — Empower people to use an idea through narrative

 

What’s your vision? Is your mission statement a bold declaration of what’s possible? More importantly, is it simple enough to convey a concrete, believable concept in a totally unexpected but memorable way?

Jeff Peyton

Author Jeff Peyton

Jeff Peyton is Director of Marketing & Communications for Triple Strength. A 30-year veteran of publishing and corporate communications, Jeff gained national prominence directing one of the largest grassroots communications efforts ever fielded. He was the architect of the nation’s first major nonprofit website, attracting millions of visitors per month in the early 1990s – years before social media, twitter, or even broadband access. Jeff spent nearly 10 years working with nonprofits, developing their communications and Web strategies. But don’t be fooled by his professional accomplishments – he also wing-walked on an airplane at 700 feet, co-piloted the Goodyear Blimp, swam with sharks, and still managed to obtain paperwork officially declaring him “legally sane.” (No, really.)

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