By Tej N Dhar
Beyond the Mission Statement, Jim Armstrong, Macmillan Publishers, Pp 168 (PB), Rs 195
Beyond the Mission Statement is the Indian reprint of its American edition of 2006. Its main argument is that in the fast-growing competitive world, businesses can thrive only when their communications to the marketplace are properly conceived from a place of purpose, which he calls the cause. That is why the subtitle: “Why cause-based communications lead to true success?”
The cause stressed by Armstrong has not to be confused with cause-related marketing, which is an acknowledged tactical tool used for building bridges between key stockholder groups. Going beyond the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the activities contained in the mission statement of businesses, the cause is a short, crisp statement of ‘why’ they do what they do. Armstrong provides a series of examples to illustrate the differences between mission statement and cause. The mission statement of a health care cooperative could, for example, be stated in four or five lines, but its cause could be “to create premium care at the most affordable price.” The cause is like the soul of a business and the power of communicating it creates solid bonds with its clients.
Armstrong discusses elaborately how arriving at the cause of a business is not all that easy. For a clear and truthful statement on this, businesses have to take into account their range of operations, clients, products or services, competitors, and the extent of their market. With chosen examples of a bank, property company, non profit organisation, and fuel company, he shows how effective communications can be developed when one is sure of the cause.
Once the cause has been framed, then organisations or business entities have to have a clear idea about their audience and the values they believe in. This goes a long way in promoting clarity and honesty in messages. He also stresses the importance of the use of connotative meanings to affect the emotional response of the audience.
Since the emphasis in the book is on helping businesses to evolve a clear understanding of how cause-based communications have to be worked out, Armstrong provides a master-list of ten basic questions that they need to answer. The major part of the book provides a set of these ten questions and their model answers with respect to hotels, health care institutions, hospitals, communication companies, literary initiatives, family planning campaigns, visitor’s bureaus, trade fairs, private schools, insurance companies, and many more.
Carefully structured and well written, Armstrong’s book should be useful for businesses to arrive at the true cause of their work and to reframe their communication messages.
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