Let’s play a game. Let’s write a higher ed mission statement.
Complete the following sentence by choosing any word from the appropriate column:
The mission of [institution name] is to [column A] a(n) [column B] [column C] environment and to [column A] [column D] through [column B] [column D] and [column D].
|column A||column B||column C||column D|
And just like that you’ve created a generic string of buzzword-laden potpourri equivalent to refrigerator magnet poetry.
Not saying mission statements are bad, but they just don’t make for the best web content. At the very least, they don’t deserve premium real estate on your site. Allow me to explain:
Self-serving instead of self-promoting
Your institution’s website is potentially its best tool for marketing to an external audience. In brief, your audience needs to know who you are and how you can benefit them. Conversely, mission statements are often written by an internal committee, intended for an internal audience, and often tend to state future aspirations instead of current actions and benefits.
Does little to set your institution apart
Look at the following mission statement:
“Our mission is to provide leadership through excellent and innovative education, research, practice, and service in diverse environments and to promote well-being of individuals, families, and communities.”
Can you deduce what type of school it is? Would this make a prospective student choose this school over another?
Often we think our mission statement belongs on the website because our audience absolutely must know we, “provide leadership” and “innovative education,” but couldn’t those phrases be used to describe any number of higher ed institutions?
“But our mission statement lets people know we, ‘provide leadership through … practice.’”
I think you just found a fancy way to say “experience” and literally every school provides experience.
Your audience deserves better
Sometimes mission statements become landing pages, and it usually goes a little something like this:
- New unit forms and drafts a statement to outline its purpose and goals.
- Unit needs web presence.
- Request for page content is answered with a copy of the mission statement.
- Ta-dah! Home page.
Now imagine prospective students browsing your site. They visit the new program home page wondering if it can help them achieve their career goals and they find rather a list of the program’s goals.
Your audience has a mission and goal of their own. Your mission needs to be helping them achieve their mission. Don’t tell them your plans; tell them your purpose. Again, your audience needs to know who you are and how you can benefit them.
But we absolutely must have it
But do you though? Okay if you insist.
Sometimes having your mission statement online is simply unavoidable. If we have to put mission statements online, then can we at least all agree to be better about it?
Place it somewhere useful
As previously stated, your mission statement does not belong on any home prominent pages. Instead, placing it on an “About Us” page would be more appropriate. Better yet, give it a standalone page where traffic can be measured.
Here and now
Let your mission statement speak to the present instead of talking of future outcomes. Talk about what you are doing instead of what you hope to do. For example:
"The mission of the Department of Technical Strategy is to foster a committed undergraduate environment and to better excellence through state-of-the-art service and growth.”
Could better be stated as:
“The Department of Technical Strategy fosters a committed undergraduate environment and betters excellence through state-of-the-art service and growth.”
Every bit of your website’s content should serve a purpose and work towards informing your audience how your institution can assist them in accomplishing their goals. Make it your mission to correct or eliminate any filler content simply taking up space and not doing any work on your site. Your website should work for your institution; not simply talk about it.
Eric Odom is a Web Developer with Augusta University. He writes like he speaks and sometimes speaks too much. He was born 20 years to the date after lightning famously struck the clock tower in Hill Valley. Eric and his wife Jayme live in Augusta, GA with their dogs, Krypto and Mulder.
Would you like to hear more from Eric? Watch his webcast on Changing the Narrative: Requesting and Creating Better Content.