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From mission statements to elevator speeches


Every organization needs to have a few well-written items for use in consistent brand messaging as part of its tool box to achieve strategic goals. These typically include a mission statement, an organizational “elevator speech,” a theme line (or tagline) to use along with a logo for print and digital media, and perhaps others. Once you have these ready to use, part of your marketing plan should be to review and revise the work annually to optimize the content.

Start with a strong mission statement, which can be developed by top leadership of the company, or by a small group or committee. Mission statement development/review can also be a valuable board retreat project. These approaches work as long as there is ultimately agreement or shared review by a larger representation of the organization.

The statement needs to go beyond what the organization does – it needs to define values and provide focus for all personnel.

To succeed, the process should incorporate a few tactics. First, imagine who you are as a business and what you want to accomplish, then develop a list of key words that illustrate your aspirations, passion, and anticipated legacy for the firm.

This creative project makes you dream big, review your strengths, and be authentic to the organization. The final product should be crisp and concise.

One higher education project I worked on started out by gathering and reviewing fairly long mission statements from other benchmark or peer schools. Our final, shorter statement was far more impactful.

As an effective recent example, the Irvine Nature Center undertook the mission statement task as a board project a few years ago and then worked with its leadership and staff to modify and finalize. Now, the center’s mission is featured prominently on its website and repeated in print and other digital displays. The main part of the mission statement is, “Irvine is an environmental educational organization. Our mission is to educate and inspire current and future generations to explore, respect and protect nature.” Well said.

Two elevator speeches

An organization’s shorter elevator speech can be derived from the finalized mission statement. If you are literally next to someone in an elevator, or more likely just meeting people at a networking event, it is extremely helpful to have an elevator speech at the ready.

Actually, I suggest two elevator speeches — one for your organization and one for you on a personal level. The icebreaker question — “Where do you work”? and the follow-up, “What do you do there”? — should be in your brief responses.

For example, “I am an attorney with the Maryland-based litigation law firm of _____. We have been helping diverse businesses address their legal needs for more than 50 years. I am a health care partner at the firm, focusing my practice on hospitals and the constantly changing medical laws affecting their growth.”

This simple statement emphasizes the durability and focus of your firm and your experience level and strategic place within the organization. You may be asked about some of the clients you have represented or about some of the recent legal challenges they face.

As a good networker, you’ll ask the person a similar question or two and see if there is a responsive elevator speech. Of course, your speech needs to be practiced to the point of sounding very natural.

Finally, the mission statement should also play a significant role in identifying your organizations’ further  abbreviated theme line. Irvine uses the words “Explore. Respect. Protect Nature” linked with its logo in communications and derived from its longer organizational mission.

I’m always pleased to see evidence of strong missions, hear good elevator speeches and see enhanced marketing messages. These marketing efforts add to individual and organizational success.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at [email protected]