How and why to write a business manifesto

Manifestos, like mission statements, set your organisation’s direction and focus. And like vision statements, they say what you want to achieve. But they’re also about what you stand for, so can be much more powerful.

What is a business manifesto?

It’s a one page document telling the world what you’re about.

It’s a poster in your reception, reminding and reassuring staff and customers why you exist.

It can be your About Us page, only more interesting.

It’s the starting point for blog posts, press releases, proposals, award entries and funding applications.

It’s your legacy, so it’s important.

Why write a manifesto?

Manifestos can inspire colleagues, clients, customers and investors. People will like you more when they understand your values and beliefs. As author and speaker Simon Sinek says,

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

which I think is often true.

Writing a manifesto is a useful exercise to help everyone in your organisation understand why you do what you do, so you can use them to motivate people.

It’s also a way to brainstorm for marketing content. You can use it to generate ideas for articles, social media posts, website content, mailshots and more.

How to write a manifesto

Start by asking yourself:

  1. What’s wrong with things at the moment?

    What are others doing wrong? What would be a better situation?

  2. How is our organisation different?

    How do we understand situation? What do we think things should be like?

  3. How are we changing things?

    What are we doing that’s better? What are our plans?

Now turn your answers into points. Two random examples:

If you sell specialist light fittings, your answer to what’s wrong with things at the moment might be it’s hard to get hold of affordable stylish lights. One of your manifesto points could be Every home should be lit beautifully.

If you’re a tattoo remover, your answer to how is our organisation different might be we use lasers, which don’t cause burning or scarring. You could say No-one deserves to be scarred.

Sharon Tanton on Valuable Content suggests testing whether your statements are suitable for a manifesto by putting “I/we believe” at the start:

‘we believe small business is the lifeblood of the UK economy, and it deserves the very best support’ works. In contrast, ‘I believe I treat small businesses better than anyone else’ sounds wrong.

Sharon tells us to be brave, original and valuable, so our manifesto becomes a fantastic rallying call.

Your beliefs should marry with your customer’s desired future, so remember to keep them at the centre.

Examples of good manifestos

99U, Adobe’s design website has five examples from different fields.

Disenthrall posts its favourite 17 brand manifestos.

Here’s one of Apple’s, which tells us about the people it wants to attract.

Google has one, framed as “ten things we know to be true“.

Tim Radford’s sets out his 25 commandments for journalists in his manifesto for the simple scribe.

Brewdog made clever video:

My manifesto

With all this in mind, I’ve drafted my own (a work in progress!):

All writing at work should be human, to the point and easy to read. Too much writing is corporate, long winded and hard to read.

Everyone can benefit from learning simple techniques. It’s easy to make our messages have a bigger impact.

Writing works best when you know what you want to achieve before you write. Make it clear what the reader should do next.

You can engage people more by framing things from the reader’s point of view. They are busy and sceptical, and don’t care about you.

Great writing comes from lots of editing. Be clear, concise and focused.

Thinking of writing a manifesto? I can help—get in touch

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