The Promise

The Promise

We were conducting a marketing workshop for a client and we did a number of exercises so that we could get a group consensus about their core objective and key messages.

As part of this session we were trying to define their “essence” , their heartbeat , who they are and exactly what they are all about – this was really useful as it helped us to understand them even more and it helped to deliver some extra clarity to their own senior team.

The session was steering it’s way towards a Mission Statement, an outward and inward declaration of intent that they could stand over, which hopefully was going to be a lot more than corporate dribble and something that would actually connect with their audiences.

The problem is I actually hate all of that Mission Statement “stuff” – I guess the original intent was good, but for me it has become a corporate and organisational formula and I have yet to read one that stops me in my tracks and tells me something genuine, honest and emotive about what they actually do and what they believe in.

I wanted to introduce something deeper and more meaningful so I wrote a word on the flip chart – Promise

OK folks..  “What can we promise?”

Initially this question made people shift uneasily in their seats …how can you really promise anything? Is that leaving you open for inevitable failure? Is a promise a little juvenile? We live in a world of broken promises and is using that word even credible any more? What if we don’t live up to our promise?

Once the idea settled a little and the group started to get their heads around it we started to think about “what we could promise“. At this point we had a really incredible conversation that quickly went to the absolute heart of what they were all about and there was now an enthusiasm about making a real promise.

Why was there discomfort initially around using the word “promise”?

Besides making a commitment that was deeper and probably much more personal for everyone concerned it also gives you little scope for failure and sets that bar really high. On the plus side it shows that you are prepared to lay your commitment on the line and be measured by it without that margin for error.

Is it really that risky to make a genuine promise and then stand over it?

What’s your promise?

Greg Canty is a partner of FuzionPR

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22 Responses to “The Promise”

  1. Andy O'Sullivan Says:

    Another great blog Greg. I work for a small specialist engineering company and we are always struggling to get our marketing right and come up with that slick statement that really embodies the connection we seek between our products with our clients.

    Our sister company, which specialises in ground stabilisation (making soft ground really hard so you can build on it) has a ruputation for efficiency and hard work unmatched in the industry here. They recently came up with this one, which I thought was really camp at first but realised its simple beauty on reflection. “We do the hard yards”. Its what they do and how they do it. Our clients always remark on it so its made that connection. Its great when you get it just right.

    An example of getting it totally wrong is the following, which a large engineering consultant uses here. A classic case of design by committe I’d say. “To create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments. Dedicated to this promise, our company is driven by a clear set of Core Values, which define who we are, what we do and how we do it.” What a turnoff…….

  2. Colm Healy Says:

    My promise Greg? Not to make any more promises…. No I think you have hit on another (in my opinion) weakness in the Irish psyche (it was fun spelling that one) where we are afraid to commit to something – as far as I am concerned ‘a promise’ is when you make an effort to commit to actually following through with whatever you said you would do. I think Nike sum it up really well – ‘Just Do It’ – apologies for the verboseness…

  3. Simon Tobin Says:

    Great piece…. we cannot foresee some events or circumstances that can be beyond our control, but we promise that we do everything in our power to deal with the situation coupled with honesty and integrity to insure we look after our customers interests, above all, a honest partnership approach with customers will give the best results and have a strong relationship…

  4. Mercy Hospital Cork (@mercyfoundcork) Says:

    Hello Greg, what a meeting and the idea of us making a promise was inspired. We feel very strongly about our role in supporting the patients of The Mercy Hospital and work our socks off every day to raise funds so that people in Munster have access to the best hospital with the best staff and the best facilities and equipment. We are very excited about finalising ‘The Promise’ and then getting on with working as hard as we can to deliver on it!

  5. Christopher M. Wiseman Says:

    Awesome blog Greg, I am always supportive of those chipping away at the behemoth of corporate speak and the infamous mission statement. My first real call to action came from reading Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start and his introduction of a Mantra.

    As a business coach, I decided to blend both my USP or Unique Selling Proposition (vision/mantra that differentiates me) with a Guarantee (or promise). “I promise to teach my clients to find the Fun AND Profit in their business and to grow a unique company culture.”

    Love to get your thoughts!

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Great post Chris – a fear of promising can be natural if you think that’s just leaving you on a hiding to nothing.

      Decide what you can promise and make one?

      Is that book good by the way? ….I love the find the fun idea…. Love it!

  6. Mary Corbett Says:


    Another great article as usual. I really connect to the idea of “the Promise” and share your view on meaningless waffly mission statements. We owe it to our clients to be clear on our commitment and promise to them. And equally we important we owe it to ourselves

    • Greg Canty Says:

      I love your idea that we own it to ourselves that we make a promise. We all need to believe in something and have a clear purpose.

      What are you doing if you don’t have that?

  7. girlwhowinks Says:

    Reblogged this on girlwhowinks.

  8. Andy O' Sullivan Says:

    I digress, I’m sorry, but Colm’s quote “my promise is never to make a promise” reminds me of the Paul Gascoigne’s classic comment that “I’ve never made a prediction and I never will”

  9. Ginger Grant Says:

    I love the message! I am so sick of ‘mission/vision/values’ statements that no one believes. Princess Margaret Hospital here in Toronto, Canada has nailed it. “We will cure cancer in our lifetime.” Done.

    I can get behind that promise! Hopefully more organizations will take up the challenge.

  10. Sean McLoughney Says:

    Another excellent article Greg; I did a similar exercise with a team this week (Team building workshop). Instead of the promise question we looked at “What is the purpose of the team”. After a bit of probing we got a conversation going and the team soon concluded that being a team was more than just doing their daily tasks.

    One other point Greg; when are you going to bring back your music recommendations!!!!

  11. Sean McLoughney Says:

    anything from 70’s soul music to rock and in-between. I’m lucky that I have a large collection of vinyl and CDs in my office that I can play while trying to write the next chapter on my book. It funny how creative you can become when Harold Melvin is playing in the background!!!.

  12. Sean McLoughney Says:

    You’ll know some of their songs as Simply Red covered “If you don’t know me by now”. Teddy Pendergrass was their lead singer during their successful period. The new book is on getting the best out of your performance review meetings and by extension the best out of your team. It is due in the shops next autumn. Lots of fun ahead!!!!!

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