Wondering how to write a manifesto for your business, as well as why you even need one in the first place?
You’ve come to the right spot. In this post, we’re digging into what exactly a manifesto is, steps you can take to draft your own, and even some examples to help you get those creative juices flowing.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump right in.
What is a Manifesto?
Let’s take a look at the Merriam-Webster definition of “manifesto.” Here it is:
A written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.
You’ve probably heard the term manifesto before. And, while you might be less familiar with its use in a business setting, the core principle still holds true: It’s a documentation of your beliefs and your values as an organization.
In many cases, these manifestos are geared toward your customers—they explain your guiding principles as a company.
However, as Sharon Tanton explains in her article for Valuable Content, the best manifestos go beyond that. “They’re more than just a promise to your customers, or a description of what you do for them,” she explains, “Great manifestos think big. They document the change you want to bring to the world.”
Sounds like a pretty large undertaking, right? Let’s look at an example for some added clarity.
Here is the manifesto of athletic outfitter, lululemon:
As the brand explains, their manifesto is “one way we share our culture with the community. It’s an evolving collection of bold thoughts that allow for some real conversations to take place.”
That’s exactly what a manifesto should be—an emotionally-charged and thought-provoking piece of content that truly captures the essence of your brand.
Wait… What’s the Difference Between a Manifesto and a Mission Statement?
I can guess what you’re thinking now: Wait… this sounds a lot like a mission statement. Are they different? Do I really need both?
While there are some similarities between the two—make no mistake—there really is a difference between a manifesto and a more traditional mission statement.
To keep things simple, think of your mission statement more as your purpose, and your manifesto more as your unshakeable, foundational belief.
The manifesto is your foundation. It is a set of beliefs you hold so deeply that they can’t help but guide you,
-says Ivana Taylor in a post for DIY Marketers,-
Your manifesto informs the decisions you make, the actions you take, and the trails you blaze. A manifesto is a way of life.
So, for example, let’s say that you offer software to help consumers make the purchase of a new car far smoother and easier.
Your mission statement looks like this: To provide high-quality customer service to people who are in the oftentimes anxiety-inducing process of purchasing a vehicle.
Now, what about your manifesto? Remember, that should capture your values and be highly emotional.
Here’s your manifesto: We believe that the customer comes first. We believe that the car-buying process should be more exciting, and less daunting. And, more than anything, we believe that you can find the vehicle of your dreams—provided you’re given the tools and support to do so.
See the difference?
In practice, the outcomes of mission statements and manifestos are miles apart,
-shares John Bell in an article for Culture University,-
Though manifestos and missions are crafted to bring people together behind a cause, manifestos have a much better track record of igniting action.
How to Write a Manifesto: 5 Steps to Follow
Here’s the great thing about your own manifesto: There are no real rules you need to stick to. It doesn’t need to be a set number of words or points. You don’t need to use a specific structure. There’s plenty of wiggle room to develop something that really suits your brand.
Hoping for at least some rules to guide you along?
You want your manifesto to be long enough to really do a thorough job of capturing your values—but not so long that people will be too intimidated to read it.
Aiming for about five core points or beliefs is a great place to get started.
With that out of the way, what else do you need to know to write a killer manifesto for your own brand?
Let’s walk through it, step by step.
1. Start Jotting Notes
Let’s face it—it’s hard to sit down and come up with absolutely everything that’s important to your brand in one swing.
It’s a lot like when somebody asks you what you like to do in your free time. You know you have plenty of hobbies and interests. But, in the heat of the moment, you’re drawing a total blank.
With that in mind, here’s the best piece of advice I can give you:
Don’t think of your manifesto as something you can sit down and knock out in an hour or so. Treat it as a process, where you can take time to think, refine, and evolve.
A great way to get started?
Keep a notebook handy—or even a notes app on your phone. Use that to jot important thoughts related to your manifesto as they pop into your brain.
- Did you just overcome a problem that really irked you? Maybe that belongs in your manifesto.
- Did you get a glowing compliment from a client or customer about something in particular? That could be food for thought.
Again, it’s hard to just generate a pool of powerful information on demand. So, start keeping a running log for a couple of weeks. That way, when you’re actually ready to pull your manifesto together, you’ll have plenty of material and inspiration to work with.
2. Talk to Your Employees and Customers
We’re all familiar with that sentiment that two brains are better than one, right? Well, why not pull as many brains into this process as possible?
Sure, you probably have a pretty good handle on your brand’s values and beliefs already.
But, getting some other perspectives in the mix from people like your employees and even your customers can help to broaden your focus and illustrate some points you might have never thought of on your own.
For example, maybe you’ve been highly zoned in on the fact that customer service tops your company’s list of priorities. But, in speaking with a colleague, you’re also reminded of all of the different initiatives and programs you have in place to serve the broader community.
Volunteerism and social good are things you would have neglected to touch on had you never participated in that enlightening conversation.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your manifesto needs to be written in isolation. Pull other knowledgeable people into the process, and you’ll come up with something that’s far more well-rounded—and, ultimately, a far more accurate representation of your brand’s values.
3. Pay Attention to the Negatives
Your manifesto itself should be positive. But, as Sharon Tanton points out in her same article for Valuable Content, you can actually learn a lot by focusing on the negatives that crop up in an average work day or week.
Firstly and most importantly, you have to have a clear perspective to write a manifesto. One way to help pinpoint that perspective is to rant,
-she says in the article,-
Let everything you don’t like about your world pour out onto a page. Use what you uncover to highlight what you do believe, and what your business is trying to change.
For example, let’s return to our previous car purchase software scenario.
After a customer tells you how grateful he is to have found you after being taken advantage of by one too many car salesman, you’re reminded of something that really bothers you about your industry:
So many dealerships and sales people are more interested in earning a quick buck than they are in truly caring about their customers who are dealing with an already emotionally and financially vulnerable experience.
That’s a negative. However, you can spin it into something positive for inclusion within your own manifesto.
Here’s what that could look like: We believe in empowering you to make the best car choice for you, whether that benefits us or not.
Much better, right?
While you do want your manifesto to be phrased positively, don’t take that to mean that you need to turn a blind eye to all of the issues and roadblocks in your industry. Processing those can serve as great fuel for your manifesto.
4. Revise, Revise, Revise
Here’s the thing: Even with all of the necessary advice and best practices under your belt, don’t expect perfection right away. You probably aren’t going to knock your manifesto out of the park on your very first try.
Just get something down on paper. Then, get that red pen out and figure out what should go and what should be added.
When you’re done with that?
Pass it to someone else in your organization. See what they think is missing or irrelevant.
Be prepared to go through numerous different iterations until you land on something that truly captures the essence and spirit of your brand.
And, even then?
Much like your company evolves, your manifesto will have to be revised to evolve with you over time.
It’s not set in stone, so be willing to approach it with the degree of flexibility that it requires.
5. Explore Different Mediums
Most of the exercises we’ve gone through to generate your own manifesto have involved jotting notes and written text. However, your manifesto doesn’t just need to be a boring paragraph.
Look at the lululemon example above once more, and you’ll see that many brands create highly visual and compelling manifestos to live on their websites or to even be hung as posters around their offices.
The North Face, for example, took things even a step further and created a video for their own manifesto.
Do some exploring to find the best way to present your own information. Remember, the more engaging you can make it, the more likely people are to pay attention to it.
Ready to Get Started on Your Own Manifesto?
Figuring out how to write a manifesto for your business might seem like a complicated undertaking. However, it really boils down to identifying your core values and beliefs and then finding a compelling way to present those to your audience.
There are several steps you can take to do that which we’ve covered here, including:
- Keeping a running log of things that matter to your organization
- Having honest conversations with your employees and customers
- Focusing on the problems and frustrations that your company aims to solve
- Going through several versions until you land on something that works
- Exploring different ways of presenting your information, whether it’s through a graphic, a video, or something different
Follow those steps, and you’ll end up with a powerful and impactful manifesto that resonates with your employees and your customers. Good luck!