Many companies, including non-profits and Fortune 500 companies, don’t understand or recognize what a mission statement is. For example, Hershey’s mission statement is “Undisputed Marketplace Leadership.” While this is a good goal, it's not a mission statement – it’s a slogan.

The differences between mission, vision, and slogan statements depend on how each statement represents a company. A mission statement should tell the world why the company exists and should act as a guiding compass to that company’s leaders. So how do you come up with a good, solid mission statement?

Be Succinct

What does your company do, and why does it do it? Answering these questions in a short, effective manner can be a challenge. Mission statements typically shouldn’t be over 30 words long – that's about the maximum amount of information that someone is going to read. Avon’s mission statement is nearly 250 words long – it’s doubtful anyone knows or remembers it. Keep your mission statements short, poignant, and powerful.

Clarity is Key

The best way to see if a statement is clear is to show it to someone a generation or two before your own. Show it to your best friend’s grandmother and ask if she understands what you’re trying to say. If she says no, then rewrite it until it does make sense to them and doesn’t contain any technical speak or large, incomprehensible words.

Inspire Good Feelings

When we say “inspiring,” we mean that your statement should inspire your company and its employees. It doesn’t necessarily have to inspire your target audience, but the best ones inspire both. A good example comes from The Elephant Sanctuary: “A natural-habitat refuge where sick, old and needy elephants can once again walk the earth in peace and dignity.” Employees at The Elephant Sanctuary know their work is important; people who donate know they’re contributing to a worthy cause.