It’s easy to let your YouTube channel become a hodge-podge of disorganized ideas. A mission statement can help give your channel direction.
I’m 16, and I’m mad about something I won’t remember. My best friend and I are driving through town to the Paul Smith store, famous across the blogosphere for the aggressively pink wall in its parking lot. I’d seen the wall before, for who could miss the plane of color bouncing at a person through the window of a bus down Melrose Avenue? Even more than the neon field, a person would see the photographers, or influencers, or tourists, jostling for enough space as to make it seem that they, in a sponsored outfit or walking shoes, were the only ones in the parking lot. The day is cloudy, and we actually are the only people here. In a black cardigan and t-shirt with a Hamlet soliloquy printed on its soft, white fabric, I slouch in front of the wall as my friend directs me. The product of this shoot is a perfect representation of me, I decide: I huddle over my phone with my face in profile, a monochromatic shout of angst against blaring rose.
That photo, now in the annals of my old Facebook profile pictures, is a fine visual definition of a mission statement. It is a clear, succinct way of telling the viewer what I’m all about (literature, complaining), and it worked pretty well if I remember the amount of Instagram likes I got on that picture.
In a formal sense, a mission statement is an entity’s proper summary of their values and goals. Youtuber has discussed the benefits of focusing your channel before, and this is another way to clarify what, on earth, any of us are ever doing. If the channel is a group effort, then a mission statement would help center everyone around a common vision. Although mission statements are mostly used by larger organizations, they can also be applied to individual pursuits. It could help bolden the line between privacy and public output, something that more creators in the gig economy struggle with. Mission statements are necessary because they define what creators will not do as much as they detail viable actions. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes creativity functions better within a limit.
A mission statement will focus your energy, of course, but it will also help build an audience. If people know what they can expect from the channel, then they’re more likely to keep watching. They can also find you or similar channels through keywords and search engine optimization techniques, building a rising tide of related content.
If you’re a casual uploader, then there’s no need to worry about branding. For professional YouTubers, this sort of focus can be the difference between strings of day jobs and creating full-time. I see a professional YouTuber as a channel that uploads on a regular schedule, with visibly high production value. It should be clear that major time and energy was spent on each video, with the subscriber and view counts to match it. Here are a few examples from different genres:
Started by the Green brothers, this channel specializes in academic content across fields of study. According to their channel description, they “create free, high-quality educational videos used by teachers and learners of all kinds”. And guess what, that’s exactly what happens! Their goal is to make learning materials accessible, and their program playlists cover everything from neuroscience to film criticism. As a full-fledged organization, they benefit from a clear mission statement.
In their description, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn form “an LA-based odd couple comedy channel from co-dependent besties.” Their uploads alternate between advice segments and sketches and promise that viewers “will learn nothing.” This funny statement perfectly summarizes the videos, and gives new audience members a taste of jokes to come. Even though they are a smaller set compared to the growing empire of Crash Course, JBU still has scheduled content and a production team. Raskin and Dunn are thus able to dedicate more time to the channel and their creative work, such as a forthcoming book.
As an individual blogger, Jenn Im has to work a little harder to distinguish between personal and public lives in ways that established organizations might not. Her channel description suggests such a distinction: “I’m Jenn Im. Korean American. Born and raised in LA. Clothes Encounters is a vlog of style musings, tutorials and lifestyle advice.” Her lifestyle is the main subject of videos, yet the channel is a cute moniker rather than her full name, a rather important if subtle difference. The statement tells the viewer just what to expect while remaining professional; Im shows enough of her personal life to be interesting, but not so much that she runs the risk of exploiting herself.
When crafting a mission statement, it’s good to consider that 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. With so much content to sift through, how can you make your channel special and focused? Imagine the mission statement as the theory of your channel, while the videos themselves are the praxis. How consistently can you fulfill your own goals?