Three critical parts to an effective editorial mission statement (and why you need one)

By Kyle Hauptfleisch

Give this a try: think of 5 white things, anything that is white — quickly.

Now, think of 5 white things you find in your fridge.

Isn’t it interesting that even though there are infinitely more white things in general than there are in your fridge, the fridge version seemed infinitely easier?

Analysis paralysis is a very real thing.

Image credit

Too many decisions will invariably make the decision process difficult, even a burden a times. Marketing is not exempt from this phenomenon. In fact, most good marketers use this principle when designing their product offering landing pages. But, they often forget about it when it comes to designing internal strategies.

Great content marketers have learned from established, and successful, publishers: an editorial mission statement is key.

It directs the content strategy and decentralises decision making, turning your content team — or agency — into informed and independent decision makers without compromising your vision.

An editorial mission statement needs to have three elements to it in order to effectively govern a successful content marketing strategy.

1. The who.

Who is this content platform for? It isn’t really for your business — if you think that you need to relook at the fundamentals of your content marketing strategy before continuing.

The who that is being referred to here is your audience. You have to know who you are talking to if you are going to provide value consistently.

Be careful when defining your audience with demographics. Just like society in general, people want to be defined by what they do, not what they look like (for the most part). Focus on the needs of your audience. Look at what challenges they will encounter around your product or service. Those challenges are the fundamental connections between the individuals that make up your audience.

People want to be defined by what they do, not what they look like.

Once you have a good idea of the challenges that your audience will encounter, you can better start defining them. Sure, you will still be making assumptions when defining them, but they are assumptions based on practical information.

2. The what?

Now that you know who the audience you are trying to cater for is, you need to decide on what you going to cater with. This is the type of information that you want to be providing the illustrious audience you are creating.

Again, look to the needs of your audience. What type of information are they going to require in order to fulfil that need? It could be recipes, it could be tips, it could be tutorials — it could be a combination.

3. The why?

This is an important one, and very much the essence of your content in the first place. What will my audience (the who) be able to do once they have the information (the what) that you are producing for them.

People don’t care about products, they care about themselves.

This the reason that the audience is going to be visiting your platform in the first place. Surprise, surprise! It isn’t because your product or service is one-of-a-kind, they don’t know about it yet, and it isn’t to purchase said one-of-a-kind product or service, they don’t care about it yet. It is to fulfill a need that they have. People don’t care about products, they care about themselves. Purchasing is your need at this stage, not your audience’s.

Here is a great example of an editorial mission statement from Sky & Telescope:

“Now in its 74th year, Sky & Telescope is the world’s leading compendium of timely and accurate information about the science and hobby of astronomy.
Our magazine appeals to the devoted amateur looking to enhance observing skills and learn about the latest equipment, as well as to professionals and academics desiring to keep up with this dynamic field.”

The who? 
The devoted amateur & professionals and academics.

The what? 
Timely and accurate information about the science and hobby of astronomy.

The why? 
To enhance observing skills and learn about the latest equipment…as well as…desiring to keep up with this dynamic field.

Once you have your editorial mission statement, spread it. Send it around your business so everyone understands what you are trying to achieve. You may uncover unsuspecting writers from other departments. You may even want to publish it, but

At the end of the day, the power of an editorial mission statement is not what it allows you to do but rather, saving time and energy. What content should you NOT create?


We can assist in crafting an exceptional mission statement, and once you have one, we can assist in implementing it. Give us a shout.

Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to join the conversation.