You need a blog mission statement

This feels like a strange thing to type, but here we are.  I’m going to explain to you in detail why you need a blog mission statement.
Why is this strange coming from me?  Well, for any of you that follow my blogging at DaedTech, you know that I have a, shall we say, “skeptical” view of corporate religiosity.  People build for-profit entities to make money, and then the ultimate long play is to remove all suffering from the world.  This typically results in mission statements like some of the gems here, including “to inspire humanity, both in the air and on the ground.”
See that?  I can barely write three sentences without my eyes reflectively rolling upward toward the ceiling.
And despite all of that, I’m still telling you that your blog needs a mission statement.

Why Does Anyone Blog?

Before I get to the blog mission statement in earnest, let me be a bit reductionist and split the blogging world into two camps.

  • You’re blogging with some sort of long-range profit goal in mind.
  • Or you don’t care at all whether anyone reads your blog and are simply journaling into the digital ether.

Stop a minute. I can already sense a bit of indignation coming from the logicians out there.  “These are not mutually exclusive,” you want to instruct me.
I disagree.
If you’re starting as a freelance developer or you have a SaaS/developer tool, then you obviously want to use your blog as a marketing funnel to help with revenue.  But what about the gainfully employed software developer without even a whiff of side hustle ambition?  Doesn’t that expose me as a false dilemma-er?
Well, if you’re one of those people, ask yourself some questions.  If you care about whether or not people read your blog, why do you care?  Is it because you want to attract readers so that you can bolster your reputation, build credibility, and create a brand for yourself?
And if you want to do those things, why?  Is it to have better job prospects and opportunities at some point?  And if that’s the case, aren’t you chasing a long-range profit goal?
The only thing separating the employed, casual tech blogger from his SaaS-building, entrepreneurial colleague is the commodity for sale and the timeline on which it is sold.

The Blog Mission Statement

If you care about having an audience at all, your blog is ultimately a profit driver of some kind for you, however obliquely.  And if your blog serves in that capacity, that turns your readers into customers, or at least prospects of some kind.
This even applies if you haven’t decided what, if anything, to sell them.  The casual tech blogger looking to improve her career prospects is looking to attract architects and dev managers to become future customers of her labor when she looks for her next job.
So let’s quickly recap.  Anyone blogging has at least a passive profit motive.  And anyone with a profit motive has customers and prospects.  Thus, as a blogger, you’re reaching out to customers.  So you need to make sure you consider your customers first and above all else when writing.  And you do that with a blog mission statement.
Here’s Hit Subscribe’s mission statement (pending any ongoing tweaks):

We help techies use their blogs to generate more business.

I know, I know.  It doesn’t have anything about flying through the air on a fluffy cloud of inspiration, let alone putting metaphorical dents in the universe.  But I guess you’ll just have to settle for us wanting to help you make a bit of money without turning it into some kind of pseudo-spiritual calling.
Your blog mission statement is a proclamation of what value you offer to readers.  And without that, your blog will be rudderless.

How the Blog Mission Statement Helps You

Let’s get specific about how the mission statement helps you.
Lacking one isn’t the death knell for your blog by any stretch.  As a matter of fact, I blogged at DaedTech for years without ever really articulating a mission statement.  I wrote a lot, people followed, and I’ve had way over a million visits.  But that number could have been a lot higher and stickier if I’d known all those years what I know now.
Here’s how a mission statement helps:

  • It ensures all of your posts are focused on your readers and doing something for them (as opposed to filler posts to avoid, like one about how you just hired some random person your readers don’t care about).
  • It helps immensely with topic planning and the editorial process.  Instead of vague excitement or misgivings about a post based on subject matter, you’ll be able to say things like, “That doesn’t help our readers generate business with their blog in any way, so let’s skip that topic.”  (Insert something relevant to you here.)
  • People often agonize about things like tone, cadence, and graphic style.  If you take your mission and use it to figure out who you want to reach (more on persona creation in future posts), you can forgo this bike-shedding.  Just ask yourself something like, “How would I talk to a software developer I met at a conference?”
  • Your blog mission statement should be a bit wider than your actual commercial mission.  For instance, Hit Subscribe’s blog aims to help any techies with their commercially-minded blogging.  But Hit Subscribe’s offerings cater to established companies that sell to developers.  This helps you make sure you’re talking to a nice, wide world of potential buyers while filtering out people for whom your offering would likely not be a fit.
  • Finally, it helps your blog maintain a coherent overall theme.
Anatomy of a Mission Statement

Using the Hit Subscribe mission statement as a template, you have something so short it might seem to lack anatomy.  But what is there matters:

We help techies use their blogs to generate more business.

Let’s back out to a mad lib format now:

We help [who] do [what].

Generally speaking, the more specific you can be with the [who] and [what] portions of the mad lib, the better.  This definitely applies to any product or service you might sell.  The more specific you are, the easier your sales, marketing, and customer satisfaction will be.  And it also applies to your blog, though, as I’ve already mentioned, you can cast somewhat of a wider net.

How to Build Your Mission Statement

It’s hard for me to speak to the general case here.  Perhaps you’ve had a software company in business for 20 years.  Or maybe you’re an entry-level developer looking to get a head start on building your brand.  Obviously, those two situations have wildly different frameworks for building a mission statement.  The latter has a blank canvas, whereas the former will need to articulate and slightly generalize the value of the software product.
But I can give some general pointers:

  • Err on the side of specificity.  It’s tempting to envision a world where every human alive reads your blog, but that’s a pipe dream.  If you speak to everyone, you’ll wind up speaking to no one.  But if you speak to a specific person, that person and others like them will hear you.
  • If you don’t yet have a product or service to position, it’s perfectly fine to let your interest guide you.  Start writing and delivering value to people, and you’ll start to see commercial opportunities as your audience grows.
  • Keep your mission statement simple and free of clouds, flight, and universes.  You’re figuring out how to help people, not how to bore them with soggy positioning statements at a giant corporate all-hands meeting.
  • Just settle on something that works.  You can always revise as you go.

But the most important thing here is the underlying change in philosophy.  If you pick a mission statement for your blog that focuses on your reader, you’ll start to make the blog all about them.  And that’s exactly as it should be if you want to succeed in building an audience.

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Text from Anatomy of a Mission Statement and How to Build Your Mission Statement, represented as handwriting on notepaper