How readable are mission
statements? An exploratory study
Industrial Marketing and e-Commerce Research Group,
Lulea University of Technology, Lulea, Sweden
Leyland F. Pitt
Segal Graduate School of Business, Simon Fraser University,
Vancouver, Canada, and
Department of Communication, University of Malta, Msida, Malta
Purpose – Mission statements are fairly ubiquitous, particularly among large organizations.
However, if they are to have a chance of achieving the desired positive outcomes, they must ﬁrst be
readable and comprehensible to the targeted stakeholders. The purpose of this paper is to investigate
this issue, to answer the question of whether the mission statements of large companies are readable
Design/methodology/approach – Content analysis and appropriate scores were employed to
investigate the readability of the mission statements collected from a random sample of 100 ﬁrms in
the Fortune 500 annual rankings.
Findings – The results indicate that on average, the mission statements of the studied companies are
not that readable, and that in the case of many of them, the mission statements assume the readings
skills of a university graduate.
Research limitations/implications – The results of this paper suggest that if the target audience
of a mission statement is broad, and includes stakeholders such as customers and lower level
employees, then ﬁrms would do well to test the readability of their mission statements, and revise
them where necessary. Mission statements are not the only tools that organizations use to
communicate with stakeholder. This encourages future research on readability analysis of other
communication tools in ﬁrms. A larger sample of companies and other approaches to measure
readability can be included in future research.
Originality/value – This paper adds to the related literature, as the level of readability of mission
statements has received limited attention in the past.
Keywords Mission statements, Corporate communications, Content analysis, Readability,
Paper type Research paper
Mission statements are an integral part of the strategic planning and implementation
process that can provide direction to choices in strategic direction (Keller, 1983; Pearce
and Robinson, 1991). In addition, mission statements are also an important marketing
and signaling tool as, externally, they articulate the organization’s identity and frame
its choice of activities (Campbell and Yeung, 1991; Hartley, 2002). Internally, mission
statements act to clarify the philosophy and intent of the organization to its employees
(Davies and Glaister, 1997).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received October 2010
Revised February 2011
Accepted April 2011
Corporate Communications: An
Vol. 16 No. 4, 2011
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited