Recipe for a business statement: equal parts focus and motivation

CRAP-Free Statements

Statements seem to be in high demand. Vision statements. Mission statements. Purpose statements. Positioning statements. So. Many. Statements.

Before writing anything—a statement, a one-pager, a video script, whatever—one of the most important questions to answer is: “Who is the audience?”

  • Who needs this message?
  • Why do they need it?
  • And once they’ve received it, what do you hope they will do?

Judging by many of the statements I see in the world of business, y’all are not asking this question.

Ain’t nobody got time for C.R.A.P.

So many statements are gobbledygook. Sterile, jargon-laden, run-on sentences. Reading these little messes, I sense that the authors are parroting lingo they plucked from leadership’s most recent presentation to investors or the board. The vocabulary would feel at home in an MBA syllabus or a management consultant’s white paper.

In Story Mode, we call that C.R.A.P., which stands for Corporate Rhetoric And Pomposity. I’m not a fan. Ever. I share this opinion liberally. Still, clients occasionally insist that C.R.A.P. does appeal to a certain audience.

“But our board members want to see their priorities in our statements!”
“But our investors are looking for these keywords in our statements!”
“But our senior executives won’t approve the statements if we don’t use these terms!”

Fine. Keep telling yourself that your target audience understands and appreciates C.R.A.P. Go for it.

But know this: C.R.A.P. words are not your best communication tool for any audience.

Results are the love language of business.

Do investors, board members, and senior leaders want specific vocabulary? No. They want results.

Instead of feeding them statements, imagine reporting to them with data stories that show how you’ve crushed your metrics or illustrate your business case for more resources. Do that, and you can stop stressing over keywords and start making the right moves for your business.

So, how do you produce results? Through employees—the people who do the work that appeals to your customers and keeps your company moving forward. These are the human beings who need to understand and take action on your statements—vision, mission, purpose, positioning, or otherwise.

You place high expectations on your people. Chances are, you’ve recently put them through some sort of reorganization or rebranding or refocusing exercise … otherwise you wouldn’t be bothering with these statements. These folks have their hands full. At best, they’re busy and distracted. At worst, they’re cynical and struggling.

It stands to reason, then, that you should craft statements with plain, clear, powerful words that are familiar and relatable to employees.

If only there were a formula for these statements …

Jill and I are not big on formulas, but we do believe in asking good questions. We always ask: “What does this communication need to DO?”

If your statement’s purpose is to guide people toward achieving results, it needs to DO two things:

  1. Focus. A statement with the right specifics is like a measuring stick for work. Am I doing the right things, and am I doing them right?
  2. Motivate. A statement with a little “oomph”—some kind of challenge or emotion or worthy goal—well, that makes us feel like this work is worth doing.

I see you there, stacking those two elements into a formula … even though I just told you I’m not into formulas. I do love a good recipe, especially when I can make it my own with a few seasonings and substitutions. So, let’s call these ingredients.

Feed your audience a simple, strong statement.

Next time you need to cook up a statement, start by pulling these two ingredients together: focus and motivation. Give them your own, rich flavor. No bland, hard-to-digest C.R.A.P. words. Express them in casual, conversational terms. Say it straight. If your first draft is too casual, you can amp up the professionalism later.

This isn’t about “dumbing it down.” It’s about achieving clarity—so your statement will be easily and consistently understood by those busy employees you’re counting on to deliver the work. You don’t want them wasting time deciphering obscure, rambling stanzas of corporate speak.  You want them clear on the job to be done, energized by the challenge, and ready to live up to your bold, clear, empowering statements.

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