How to write your editorial mission statement

Most businesses I talk to have picked up on the importance of a content marketing program. They know it’s their ticket to building an audience and the key to a solid inbound marketing strategy. But for some reason, many of these businesses are missing one of the most important elements of a successful program – an editorial mission statement.

An editorial mission statement is how you unite everyone in your company toward a single goal. It embodies your brand, delivers a deep understanding of your company’s purpose (to customers and employees), describes your target audience, communicates what you’ll be creating, and why its creation is important in the first place.

As Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute’s founder, said back in 2012:

“A mission statement is a company’s reason for existence. It’s why the organization does what it does.”

In other words, content that’s not backed by an editorial mission statement is a bit like a ship without a compass – directionless.

But even though 88% of B2B companies use content marketing, 72% don’t have a documented editorial mission statement, according to CMI’s 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.  The result is a lot of companies publishing content at breakneck speed, with no clue who they’re marketing to or why they’re producing the content they are.

Fortunately, there are three easy steps you can take to arrive at a winning editorial statement for yourself.

Step 1 – Identify Your Target Audience

Speaking to the right audience is the #1 must-have in any content marketing program. We’ve talked about Facebook ad targeting frequently in the past and a lot of the same rules apply when you’re defining your target market. In both cases you want to be as specific as possible when creating customer personas and carve out a niche for yourself within a particular market.

Try to nail down the following details about your target audience:

  • Location – Understanding where your audience lives is a vital first step in defining your target audience. It will allow you to produce content that stays relevant to the cities, states, or countries you operate in.
  • Size – You want to know how narrow or broad of an audience you’re appealing to. Most businesses will target a smaller audience, so that they can keep their message tightly focused, but larger companies (e.g. Amazon) will often broaden their scope.
  • Demographic – Knowing details like the age, gender, education level, relationship status, income, and job title helps you hone your content’s tone and messaging. The more accurate your typical customer’s snapshot is, the better you’ll be able to appeal to them.
  • Interests – Content is not and has never been about what you want – it’s always about your audience. Tackle their interests, address their pain points, and talk about issues that they want to talk about.
  • Behaviors – When you know what motivates your audience to move from a visitor to a lead to a buyer, you’ll have ammunition for your content’s calls to action.
  • Language – Language goes beyond what language you’ll write and speak in when communicating with your clients – it’s also about what type of content you choose to communicate. Simple language is usually best policy for content, but if your audience needs technical expertise, you’d better be able to talk specifics, using jargon they understand.
  • Goals – What are your audience’s biggest motivations? What drives them to read an article, buy a product, or seek out help in your marketplace?

When you a clear understand of which industries/individuals you excel at helping, make sure that all of your employees are on board. A Gallup study revealed that only 41% of employees know what their company stands for, but your editorial mission statement can change that.

Step 2 – Communicate How Your Service Will Help

An editorial mission statement without a clear, benefit-driven message is an unfinished equation. Your customers know what services you offer, but not why they should care. Similarly, your employees know what they’re supposed to be promoting, but they have no reason to get excited about the solution they’re a part of.

Your editorial mission statement should get everyone – customers and employees – on board with your business goals.

This means producing content that showcases deliverable results. Does your service help business grow? Does it increase revenue? Does it ease the daily grind? The better your employees understand what you’re offering, the better they’ll be able to convert customers into sharing your vision.

Lots of companies stop short here and decide that the value they provide is very specific to their product or service, but in many cases that isn’t broad enough. For example, if the only content that AirBnB produced was related to lodging, they wouldn’t be nearly as celebrated as they are in the content space. If Buffer only talked about social media scheduling, or even just social media, they’d run out of topics fairly quickly and limit their audience.

Both of these companies do a great job of broadening their content mission to be about more than just what they sell. Buffer doesn’t just help you schedule social media posts more effectively – they help you work more effectively. AirBnB doesn’t just help you find a place to stay, they inspire you to travel more often and dig deeper than surface level tourist experiences.

Take a close look at the value that your product or service provides, and expand that concept to a higher level.

  • If you rent tents and party equipment, don’t just tell your audience how the rental process works…

…show them how to throw a better party.

  • If you sell software that helps B2B sales teams find new prospects, don’t just tell them about lead prospecting…

…show them how to build the best damn sales team in their industry.

  • If you sell beekeeping equipment to small-scale organic farmers, don’t just tell them how to harvest honey…

…show them how honey can become the most profitable output on their farm.

Makes sense right?

Set your brand up for success by building a content marketing program that shows your customer how to be a better version of themselves.

Step 3 – Figure Out What You’ll Create

Our final step, after determining who we want to speak to and what value our content will give them, is to determine what form that content will take.

What you create for your audience goes beyond whatever products or services you’re offering – it’s every piece of content, from case studies to company tweets. Yes, your public-facing mission statement should clearly communicate what you do to prospects, but it’s equally important for your employees to understand what kind of content you’re producing and why internally.

That means considering the many types of content, how they benefit your marketing program, and what message they will communicate. It also means establishing your brand identity and promoting content that reflects that identity.

As Contently’s Joe Lazauskas writes:

“A clear sense of identity is what categorizes the best brand publishes. GE is the smart, inquisitive, clever science nerd who blows your mind. Red Bull is the death-defying rock star you want to hang out with. HubSpot is the inbound marketing genius who wants to help you get a promotion. Moz is the wizard of SEO with secrets that will fundamentally change your business. In different ways, they’re all a kind of person who will accumulate a posse of interested admirers at that dinner party.”

Embodying your brand identity goes so much deeper than slapping an adjective (funny, down-to-earth, irreverent, etc.) onto your company or your copy. Brand identity means that every piece of content should contribute to this core image and reflect the truest picture of your company.

Also, figuring out what kind of content you will produce in advance gives all of your writers a common framework to work from (ensuring consistency) and it helps you say no to content that doesn’t further your mission.

What Great Editorial Mission Statements Look Like

Treehugger:

Editorial Mission Statement for TreeHugger

Editorial Mission Statement for TreeHugger

TreeHugger casts a wide net, aiming to be the forerunner in all things green.

TreeHugger is the leading media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream. Partial to a modern aesthetic, we strive to be a one-stop shop for green news, solutions, and product information. We publish an up to the minute blog, weekly and daily newsletters, and regularly updated Twitter and Facebook pages.

  • Audience: While not spelled out, TreeHugger implicitly targets companies and individuals interested in sustainable living.
  • Content: Blog posts, newsletters, and Twitter and Facebook feeds.
  • Delivers: Green news, solutions, and product information.

Eater.com:

Eater.com's Editorial Mission Statement

Eater.com’s Editorial Mission Statement

Vox Media’s Eater is a foodie’s dream come true and they let you know exactly what they’re about on their front page.

Eater is the go-to resource for food, drink, and restaurant obsessives. It keeps readers informed about what’s going on in their local dining scenes while also providing in-depth criticism and analysis, award-winning long form journalism, and entertaining and informative videos. Eater is the only food world publication with a staff of critics, videographers, editors, and journalists on the ground in more than two dozen cities across America.

  • Audience: Restaurant obsessives in America.
  • Content: Food and restaurant journalism, entertainment, and information.
  • Delivers: In-depth critiques, analysis, and resources on food and drinks.

Altura Interactive:

Our friends at Altura Interactive clearly outline the niche they occupy in their About Us page:

Altura Interactive's Spanish Marketing Editorial Mission Statement

Altura Interactive exists to bridge the gap between exceptional business and their Spanish-speaking customers through targeted, relevant and ethical online marketing. We partner with agencies and businesses around the world, opening their doors to the fast-growing Latin market.

  • Audience: Businesses and agencies with a Spanish-speaking audience.
  • Content: Targeted, relevant, and ethical online marketing aimed at the Latin market.
  • Delivers: Access to the Latin market for expanding businesses.

Converting a clear mission statement like this into an editorial mission statement is easy:

Altura Interactive publishes helpful guides for English-speaking marketers looking to reach the fast-growing Latin market. From localization to simply understanding Hispanic audiences, we’re here to help you get better at Spanish marketing.

Why You Should Stop Reading & Write Your Editorial Statement Right Now

Mission statements are the heart and soul of every business. They inform your products, your customer outreach, and your branding. But if an editorial mission statement doesn’t also underpin your content marketing, your content will be unfocused.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of CMI, nicely sums up the irony of the B2B industry:

“Brands create this kind of detail for their products and services, but almost never about the content they are using to attract and retain customers. And that is exactly why most branded content is just awful.”

To avoid producing awful branded content, start by answering:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What are you going to create for them?
  3. How is it going to help them?

Only after answering these questions will you be able to communicate what content you’ll be producing, who you’ll be producing it for and how your content helps with both your employees and your audience.

As I’ve said before, pouring your heart and soul into great content isn’t enough. You need to approach content marketing with a strategy – which means having an editorial mission statement.