Vision and Mission Statements: The Basics

At Xenophon Strategies, we are often dealing with clients on crisis communication and we are known as one of the top PR firms in DC. However, good public relations and organizational communications starts with the basics.

Frequently, we find a great deal of confusion about the difference between Vision and Mission Statements and they often become intertwined. As a result, they tend to be uninspiring, confusing or overly long making it difficult to remember, much less articulate. Philosophically Vision and Mission Statements should be separate but related, just like strategy and tactics — strategy is what an organization wants to accomplish and tactics are the ways in which it intends to do so.

Philosophically Vision and Mission Statements should be separate but related, just like strategy and tactics — strategy is what an organization wants to accomplish and tactics are the ways in which it intends to do so.  

Vision Statements:

A Vision Statement needs to be forward looking, starting with now, but looking into the future, defining what an organization wants to achieve over time. Most importantly, a Vision Statement needs to paint a vision of the future that draws people in, engages them by sparking their imagination and interest. Ideally, a good Vision Statement allows employees or stakeholders to understand how their day-to-day activities relate to long term accomplishments. For example, Microsoft’s original vision statement was simple, clear and spoke to the company’s aspirations: “A computer on every desk and in every home”.

Many things go into creating an effective Vision Statement, but there are three essential features to keep in mind:

  • Make it memorable. This often means simplicity.
  • Don’t over-engineer. The biggest killer of effective Vision Statements is to turn it into a laundry list of everything an organization does or wants to stand for.
  • Plain language. Every organization has its own language of industry-specific terms and acronyms. Avoid them and speak to everyone.

Mission Statements:

Mission Statements speak to the here and now, defining the present state and purpose of what you do. Ideally, it should answer three questions either directly or through implication: What do we do? How do we do it? and For Whom do we do it? Understanding the mission gives employees, stakeholders and others perspective on the role they play in achieving the vision and moving into the future.

As with Vision Statements, the best Mission Statements are clear, memorable and concise. For example, The New York Public Library’s mission is: To inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge and strengthen our communities. What they do is inspire lifelong learning and advance knowledge; How is implied because they are a library and Who is our communities.

The Erie Insurance Company’s mission is: To provide our policyholders with as near perfect protection, as near perfect service as humanly possible and to do so at the lowest possible cost. The What is provide protection, the Who is policyholders and the How is implied because they are an insurance company.

Similar to Vision Statements, avoid over-engineering, technical language and complexity.

If you have questions, give us a call at Xenophon Strategies, one of the top Washington DC PR firms and one of the world’s leading crisis communications firms.

– By: David Fuscus – President & CEO | DFuscus@xenophonstrategies.com

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