SD #40 | Add Clarity and Impact to Your Storytelling With Commander's Intent

#commander's intent #contentcreation #storytelling business communication business messaging businessstorytelling May 01, 2023


Add Clarity and Impact to Your Storytelling With Commander's Intent


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Read Time: 6.0 minutes


While a simple statement, the Commander’s Intent is actually the most important part of the brief. When understood by everyone involved in the execution of the plan, it guides each decision and action on the ground.

—  Jocko Willink and Leif Babin | Authors, Extreme Ownership


What’s the Tip

Last week, we talked about boosting your storytelling with active voice to make your content clear and engaging. This week, we'll take clarity to another level as we discuss a military communications tool called, Commander's Intent. 

Commander's Intent sits at the top of a mission statement. It clearly and concisely articulates what the mission is designed to achieve and why it's important.

In their book Extreme Ownership, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin state that Commander's Intent "must explain the overall purpose and desired result or end state of the operation."

Now, imagine how helpful this idea of Commander's Intent could be for your business storytelling, whether it's for prospects, customers, social media followers, or a team? 


How Do You Use It?

Before you start an email or blogpost, take a minute to draft one simple sentence that articulates what you hope to achieve with your content and think about what success looks like. This is the guts of Commander's Intent.

Of course, easier said than done, right? If you're like us, you may at times find yourself getting stuck because you have too many competing ideas which makes distilling them down to one idea a little tough. 

But here's a good remedy: simply ask yourself, "what's the one thing you have to keep in your message or everything else falls apart?"

Think of this one thing as the Jenga puzzle piece that you can't remove, or everything comes tumbling down. That's the crux of your Commander's Intent.

Here are two other ways you can think about Commander's Intent. Challenge yourself with the following:

  • If your message does nothing else, it must do __________.
  • The single, most important thing you want the recipient of your message to take away is________,

All good. But how exactly does this approach help in your day to day? 


What are Some an Examples? 

An Email:

Here's how Commander's Intent can help you organize your thoughts before drafting a project milestones email to a client. It will help you understand what you want to keep in your email and what you want to take out.

It's a statement of intent that you keep at the top of your draft to refer to while you're writing:

The purpose of this email is to provide the client with a clear timeline of project milestones, including delivery dates and expected completion times, to ensure transparency and effective communication throughout the project's lifecycle.

This Commander's Intent statement clearly communicates the goal of the email, which is to provide the client with important project information that they need to know.

It outlines the intended outcome, which is to establish transparency and effective communication with the client throughout the project's lifecycle.

By starting with a clear Commander's Intent, the email can be structured in a way that effectively communicates the project timeline and other important details in a clear and concise manner.

 A LinkedIn Post:

Here's how Commander's Intent can help you organize your thoughts before drafting a post. Your statement of intent may look something like this:

The goal of this post is to offer actionable insights to entry-level professionals on how to navigate the job market and secure their dream job in the tech industry.

This commander's intent statement clearly outlines the purpose of the post, which is to offer guidance to a specific target audience — entry-level professionals — on a specific topic — job search strategies in the tech industry.

By starting with a clear intent, the post can be crafted in a way that effectively communicates the intended message and engages the target audience.

Working with Virtual Assistants:

If you work with virtual assistants or freelancers, Commander's Intent can help you convey your overarching intent, goals, and priorities. Clear communication frees up your virtual assistants to implement your request faster, better, and more efficiently (potentially saving you both time and money).

Here's an example of using Commander's Intent to offer direction to a Virtual Assistant:

"I need to prepare for a meeting with a potential client. My objective is to wow them with our company's expertise in digital marketing. Please research the client's background, identify their needs and preferences, and suggest specific examples of our successful campaigns that align with their goals.

Additionally, please provide me with a concise summary of the client's key points of interest, so I can effectively communicate our value proposition during the meeting. I trust your judgement in finding the most relevant and up-to-date information. Please provide me with the report by 2 PM today."


What's the Benefit to You?

Using commander's intent offers several benefits:

1. Stronger Client Relationships

By applying commander's intent principles in client communications, you can set clear expectations and deliverables, fostering trust and satisfaction. 

Strong client relationships lead to repeat business, positive referrals, and a growing reputation in your field.

2. Easier, More Effective Content Creation

When you apply Commander's Intent to content creation you provide clarity on what the post is about and what you hope to achieve.

It prioritizes your audience, so you're speaking directly to them, which increases the likelihood that the post will be of interest and generate engagement.

It also saves you time by providing a clear focus for the post - which makes knowing what to keep and what to take out much easier.

3. Greater Autonomy and Empowerment for Collaborators

Commander's intent enables you to empower collaborators, virtual assistants, or freelancers by providing them with clear goals, allowing them to make independent decisions when needed.

This increased autonomy can improve job satisfaction, foster a sense of ownership, and lead to higher-quality work from your collaborators. 



  1. 📝 Commander's Intent is a military communications tool that articulates the mission's purpose and desired outcome.
  2. 📝 Before you write content, draft a simple sentence that articulates what you hope to achieve and what success looks like.
  3. 📝 Benefits of using Commander's Intent include enhanced autonomy and empowerment, streamlined communication, and stronger client relationships.
  4. 📝 The approach saves time, energy, and hassles caused by miscommunication.


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