Expression vs. Communication—Why Care?

Particularly when your audience isn’t a bunch of communication experts and wouldn’t know the difference if you communicated like a professional—why not just “be yourself”?

Remember, expression is about saying what you feel, while communication is about connecting to your audience. In other words, expression is mostly about me, the writer. Communication is mostly about you, the reader.

Say you’re looking for a new dry cleaner. You’ve seen a couple of names on a couple of trucks and decide to check out their websites.

Mission = About Me

On the first website,  you find a mission statement. That’s right: your prospective dry cleaner has a mission! One California dry cleaner is “committed to being the leader in Quality Dry Cleaning, Laundry and Disaster Restoration Service.” While it’s lovely for them to feel committed, I’m more interested in finding a business that PROVIDES quality dry cleaning, laundry and disaster restoration service.

(Full disclosure: I’m not in favor of mission statements for most businesses, whose real mission is to make money. If dry cleaning suddenly became unprofitable, most dry cleaners would cease operating or find other ways to generate income. No matter how passionately the owners loved their work, they would not dry clean free of charge.

On the other hand, a mission to conduct a profitable business that is also ethical or provides opportunities to at-risk populations is not only credible, but may contribute to my purchasing decision.)

Pledge = About You

On the second website, you find something different: a promise to its customers. Zips Dry Cleaners features a page called pledge that covers pricing, timing, eco-friendly cleaning, and—redundantly—professional cleaning at unbeatable prices. But we’ll let that slide for now.

These two strategies, mission and pledge, share a common goal: to summarize the businesses so the audience can get its head around what they do. But the difference between a mission and a pledge is that a mission is inherently about me, while a pledge is inherently about what I will do for you.

At the end of the day, your audience wants to know one thing: what’s in it for me? If your copy doesn’t address that, you aren’t reaching them. 

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