A client proudly announced that they did not need to look at their messaging because it was all in their 35-word mission statement. It was all I could do not to scream because that mission statement was, not just a yawner, but a tangle of words that failed to express with clarity even one of the messages they hoped to convey. What I told them was: “Your mission is not your message.”

Unfortunately, that client is not unique. Far too many companies and organizations are confused about how your mission differs from your message. Let’s clarify the difference.

Your mission statement describes your purpose. “Why do you exist?” A vision statement, which often accompanies a mission statement, describes “how the world is different because you exist.”

Your message, therefore, pulls from the mission and vision and describes “why we should care about what you do.”

Mission and vision are your North Star. Mission and vision describe what your presence means and will mean to the rest of the world. They align your enterprise so that everything you do and say relates back to those principles and imperatives. They are your essence.

Your messaging should harmonize with the mission and vision, but it enriches your communications with the language that gets people excited about you and your work. Messaging is a magnet that draws people to you. It explains why you are necessary.  And it expresses more fully your purpose and your impact. Your messaging lays out a clear path to understanding the “why” of you.

So, next time you are thinking about how you are going to communicate externally, don’t just slap a mission statement on your website or recite it to people in pitch meetings.  Think about how your mission and vision relate to others and build on that with clear, concise, and compelling messaging.