Sentence Deathmatch: a Content Strategy Exercise


By Marli Mesibov

At UIE15, Kristina Halvorson gave a phenomenal presentation on how and why to create a mission statement. We as a team were so impressed by the activities she suggested, we decided to take on the task ourselves. This has provided us with an opportunity to:

  1. Take our own medicine. As a UX company, we constantly try out new brainstorming activities with clients. It’s always good to test one on ourselves first!
  2. Finesse our content strategy. Sure, we know the importance of a strong content strategy. But knowing how doesn’t always mean we take the time to do it…
  3. Learn about ourselves. As we grow, we want to check in now and again. Where are we now? Is this where we want to be? Where are we going?

The meeting minutes below demonstrate how our collaborative, sometimes wandering (though never quite lost!) effort brought us to our new mission statement.

Sentence Deathmatch

4:30 Sentence Deathmatch Competition officially begins!

4:37 Joe asks if anyone else was aware we were beginning our meeting at 4:30. The team checks the clock then, shocked at the time, gathers around one computer.

4:40 Marli presents the goals of the deathmatch:

  • First, each team member will present the mission statement sentences (s)he assembled over the course of the last week.
  • Next, we will read through all sentences, giving initial feedback (words that stick out to us in positive or negative ways).
  • Finally, we will choose one (or more) sentences to use as a base, and finesse them to become One Sentence to Define Them All.

4:45 One team member (to remain anonymous) realizes (s)he forgot to write any sentences. The team takes a 10 minute break while Heather types furiously.

4:55 Jim reads aloud the sentences. (Sentences with asterisks are our favorites)

  • Above the Fold is a handful of real people, passionate about creating comprehensive usability strategies, enjoyable, intuitive user experiences, and lasting relationships.
  • **We are a tight-knit team of user experience designers who approach every project with dedication, razor-sharp attention to detail, and a passion for what we do.
  • We build lasting partnerships with web and mobile companies to create user experiences that are visually stunning and delightfully intuitive.
  • What is UX design? A 360 view of your users’ experience, from the words on the page to the pages they visit most, combined with a forward-thinking strategy for the design along the way.
  • We are passionate UX designers creating stunning, usable online experiences aligned with forward-thinking approaches.
  • **Beautiful and usable web experiences crafted by real people.
  • Captivating people with progressive design and experiences.
  • Bonding users and business through ideas, design and usability.
  • Creating harmony between businesses and users with new ideas and designs.

Marli records the words that appeal to us:

  • Passionate, Razor-sharp, Mobile, Web usable, Effortless, Visually stunning, Delightful, Real people
  • Fluent / Intuitive / Learnable / Easy to use / Fluid / Seamless / Effortless

And the words that do not:

  • Harmony, Captivating, Crafted, Forward-thinking

5:15 The team turns to Ben and Jerry’s sample statement from Kristina’s talk, for inspiration:

“We always craft our eclectic collection of euphoric ice cream flavors with love, all-natural ingredients, and a plan for global goodness.”

With this in mind, we re-read our sentences, eventually settling on one to begin tweaking: “We are a tight-knit team of user experience designers who approach every project with dedication, razor-sharp attention to detail, and a passion for what we do.”

5:25 Joe suggests incorporating the word “meaningful,” and the entire team gets sidetracked. A few short statements take shape:

  • Shaping meaningful experiences
  • Crafting/designing lovable products
  • Designing lovable creations

Conversations spring up: do we create products or experiences? What is an experience without a product/project/application? How do we define ourselves? Who are we? What are we? What is art? What is life? Why are we here?

[By this time the entire team is pacing the room, throwing out words, taking turns walking up to the computer and typing, or reading aloud.]

5:45 Marli suggests we leave that problem for the moment and return to our sentence. Slowly, through much discussion, the statement evolves:

  • We are a tight-knit team of user experience designers who approach every project with dedication, razor-sharp attention to detail, and a passion for what we do.
  • We approach every project with dedication, razor-sharp attention to detail, and a passion for what we do.
  • We approach every opportunity with dedication, razor-sharp attention to detail, and a passion for meaningful user experiences.
  • We approach every opportunity with a love of design, and a passion for meaningful user experiences.
  • We approach every opportunity with a love of design, a passion for meaningful experiences, and good old fashioned common sense.
  • We infuse every opportunity with a love of design, good old fashioned common sense, and a passion for meaningful user experiences.
  • Infusing every opportunity with a love of design, straight up common sense, and a passion for meaningful user experiences.

Why this sentence?

Following Kristina’s advice, we created our mission statement to remind us of where we are and where we’re going. We don’t intend to use this as a marketing statement, but it will influence any external copy we write from here on out.

What is your mission statement? How does it represent your team?

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