“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
We’ve all heard it, and laughed at its accuracy. Any college student who has shrunken margins to complete a one-page essay knows how difficult it can be. Any parent who has droned on for 20 minutes or more about the precise level of adorable in their new baby’s smile has fallen prey. When we are too close to something, too passionate about a topic, it can be hard to find the level of sophistication necessary to harness the power of simplicity.
But simplicity is critical to building a brand that is compelling and memorable enough to be brought to life by its employees and preferred by its customers.
In building and defining your purpose, mission or vision statement your aim should be simplicity, clarity, passion and brevity:
- with simplicity your audience can better hear and understand your message
- with clarity they are more apt to know how to act on it
- with passion your audience can connect with its essence
- with brevity they are more able to remember it, and tell it to others
This is not to say that hundreds of pages of research and writing and discovery should’t go into the creation of your statements. In fact, I’d say the best, most clear and compelling statements are almost always the result of hundreds of hours of hard and deliberate work to understand and have insights about your business, your customer and your brand. But you must also give yourself the time to do the hard work to simplify the final product.
Determine first what you are trying to communicate. Craft it into one big idea (for a purpose statement), or three at the most (for mission or vision statements). Now, try to get it down to one sentence. Pour over every word. Consider what is essential and discard the rest. And then, try it out on others. Do they get it? Does it resonate? As an employee, can they see how to use it as a filter for their thinking and actions? Talk with your target audience. Do they connect with its essence? Talk to people outside your industry. Do they understand it? Can they remember it? And my favorite: try it over the dinner table with your family. Kids make great focus groups. As Einstein said, “if you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” And finally, check your work against your objective and ask: is it simple? is it clear? does it have passion? is it brief?
In the end, it is the content of the purpose statement, mission or vision that is most important. If it makes your heart grow a size, if it makes you want to kick over the tables to get started, if you feel compelled to join in or act out, then the statement has done its job. But working hard to achieve simplicity will better ensure that your message that you connect with so passionately – will spread, infecting others as it does.
This article may be reprinted when the copyright, link to article and author bio are included. ©2015 Storyforge, LLC. Please contact us for inquiries.
Haley Boehning is the Chief Change Officer at Storyforge. Building on 20+ years driving change for Fortune 500 clients, non-profits and start-ups, Haley has developed a pragmatic approach to change through storytelling, developing relevant, consistent and emotionally compelling messages and targeted communications strategies that help brand and culture triumph in times of great change.