Wishing you a wonderful, happy and peaceful Christmas

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Over six months ago I made the decision to leave the organisation I’d worked for for over 16 years and set out into the big wide world on my own. Many advised against it and others expected me to fail.

However I would like to take the opportunity, with Christmas hurtling towards us, to thank all of the wonderful people who have supported me, believed in me and helped me on this journey. You are truly amazing and I am incredibly grateful for everything that you’ve done for me.

I’d also like to thank the fabulous and inspirational people that I’ve worked with and continue to work with. You have taught me that choosing to be true to myself and what I believe in is absolutely the right thing to do. You make me smile, feel humbled and want to be a better person.

Happy Christmas to you all and I wish you a wonderful, peaceful, healthy and prosperous new year.

Thanks
Mary

The value of values

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We hear lots of companies and corporate bodies talking about their values and how important it is for their staff to live them, but what do they actually mean? And does it matter?

I guess to begin to answer those questions it’s interesting to look at our own personal values, how we develop them and their importance. I’ve thought long and hard about my values; I hold them very dear, often wear them on my sleeve and all decisions in my life are very much made with my values rather than cold rationality or logic in mind.

My Mum and Dad obviously shaped who I am and what I hold dear in so many ways. They taught me kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit, they taught me to love and be gentle with animals, they showed me the beauty of gardens and how to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables. They taught me to be independent and strong but to cherish the love and support of friends and family. They showed me that possessions weren’t what we should seek, rather learning, joy, experiences, memories.
They also instilled in me strongly that you have to work hard for what you want, earn trust and respect and love to be loved. All great lessons in life. I was very lucky. I couldn’t have asked for better tutors.

I was also very privileged in the schools I attended. They weren’t privileged schools, far from it but they opened up to me incredible experiences and wonderful friendships. My primary school was incredibly diverse, we embraced all cultures, celebrated every festival in every religion and welcomed all cultures. Our teachers were amazing people who saw their role as a vocation, they had strong beliefs and they shared them; I remember vividly one holding an assembly about the cruelty of the seal pup cull for the fur trade (not on the curriculum I suspect).

My secondary school had inspirational teachers too who not only exposed me to wonderful experiences in the classroom but brought the world to life for me. I still can’t quite believe I stood on top of the Berlin Wall. I broke my heart in Auschwitz, I was humbled by the students and others who fought for the revolution in Hungary, I was horrified by the cruelty of humanity and lifted up by the strength of those who stood up to it.

My sixth form was a crazy, wonderful place where I was so happy. I met fabulous people who changed my life and continue to influence it. (I won’t name them as they may get shy but they need to know I love them.) Sadly, one of the most wonderful men I’ve ever met and one of my greatest friends is no longer with us but he is always in my thoughts and still inspires me each and every day.

I’ve also learned many important lessons from my friends, my brother’s friends and my work colleagues that have helped me to realise what I now know is important.

All of these people and all of these things have shaped my own personal values. They make me who I am so I believe they are massively important. They are my drive, my passion, my enthusiasm. If companies can harness this in their employees then they will truly reap the benefits. So I say good luck, keep trying, try your hardest because this is what is important.

The only thing that will redeem mankind…

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I’m a self-confessed co-operative geek. All my friends know it. I’ve never tried to hide it, to be fair I would be unable to. I absolutely believe in the co-operative values and principles and don’t understand why so many organisations don’t choose to adopt the model. It makes sense in every way.

And as Bertrand Russell said “The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation”.

I am really excited that I’m currently working on a project that absolutely embodies the co-operative principles. Explicitly ‘co-operation amongst co-operatives’. It’s a truly wonderful, refreshing way to work and I have never been so delighted. I can’t say much more just yet but I will tell you all more very shortly.

You can rely on the fact that I am very, very excited and can’t wait to share it with you…

#LikeAGirl

 

Watching the explosion of the #alsicebucketchallenge (which I’ll come back to in a blog post soon)  has made me ponder on recent social media campaigns. By far the most thought provoking for me has been #LikeAGirl which was launched by Always.

Though not a charity or technically seen as a ‘campaigning’ activity because it was launched by a feminine products brand, it is relevant, powerful and hits a incredibly raw emotional nerve.  

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After contrasting post-puberty females’ and males’ stereotypes associated with the phrase “Like a girl”, with younger girls’ more positive interpretations, the video dissects the socialisation of women to feel weak as a norm. Frightening and illuminating stuff.

Surely it makes you ask, is this how your sisters, daughters, nieces feel?

I think what I found most shocking about this is not only has this messaging, this misogyny, been accepted into the lexicon of society but into the thinking of women and perhaps most frighteningly, girls.

I found myself reflecting on my own use of language and though I consider myself a feminist I know that I too am guilty, occasionally of using such phrases as “You big girl!” as a teasing but undoubtedly derogatory term. I tried to comfort myself that the phrase is short hand for ‘You big girl’s blouse!’ but it is cold comfort…

I have subsequently promised myself and women everywhere never to use any such term as derogatory. I know that as a woman I have a responsibility to support, protect and champion women whenever I can. (Men too, I’m not sexist, but watch the video.) I believe that we all do.

I’m delighted that the empowering message of this video propelled it the number one most viral video the first week it was released. And that between June 26 and July 7 #LikeAGirl garnered 101,679 posts/shares. Now that’s how to do social media #LikeAGirl

I’m also delighted that it struck such an emotional chord; that many girls, women and men mention crying when they watched it. But is that enough? 

Can we all challenge ourselves to make sure we use the phrase ‘like a girl’ in an empowering, positive, encouraging and inspirational manner?

 

Don’t look at me in that tone of voice…

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When you work in communications, I believe that one of the key challenges is to understand the brand you represent so well that the tone of voice becomes not only something that you can convey confidently, but it becomes natural. It’s not always that easy to do when the tone is defined, at great length and in minute detail, usually by a large and expensive marketing agency. They also like to describe it in obtuse terms and build in long, complicated sign off processes. It’s all fine, you get used to it, you find a way of working with it but what ends up happening is that the beautifully crafted copy you produce that connected emotionally to your organisation’s values becomes a cold, transactional, ‘does what it says on the tin’ missive that you’d rather not put your name to.

It’s not the most fulfilling of experiences.

The joy of setting up on your own is that the voice is your own. It becomes really easy to talk about your business because it’s you. Your values can shine through. The brand represents your personality, it’s not faceless or anonymous. That is an absolute joy.

I hope that this translates directly to my customers and potential customers.

If you asked me to describe my brand tone of voice I think it’s; personal, simple, common sense and  values based.

I don’t think that’s obtuse or complicated but I’d be interested to hear if you agree or what words you would use to describe it.

 

Wochi all about then?

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Oh okay so I know that this is the blog that you’ve been waiting for. This is the question that you’ve been asking isn’t it? Wochi. Wochi mean?

So, some of you, knowing my fondness for a certain set of sic-fi trilogies from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away may think that I have sadly misspelt Wookiee and having done it I’m fronting it out. It’s a lovely theory and I have to confess I do love a Wookiee but no, that’s not the answer.

My fabulous friend and awesome Marketing guru Paul, (apologies if you wanted anonymity but you really need to take the credit for this) gave me invaluable help in working through how to find a name for this exciting new business venture of mine. I simply explained to him what my dream was and confessed I had no idea how to go about finding a name to encapsulate everything I hoped this venture would be. Paul, knowing me, my values and the values and principles that I wanted this business to stand for was the perfect person to help me navigate the dangers of nomenclature.

Let me confess now, I had tried to think of a name myself. I’d tried really, really hard. I spent hours wracking my brains. It was an unmitigated disaster. I was worse than the worst of teams on an episode of The Apprentice. I’m so embarrassed at my efforts that I can’t even share them with you, not even in the name of comedy!

Legend that he is, Paul gave me some great, considered, meaningful suggestions. But for one reason or another the initial options weren’t “the one”.

And then he contacted me again with a single, additional suggestion. Wochi. Wochi is a Navajo word, it means illuminate, the literal translation is ‘to light up’. Instantly my heart soared. Everything made sense. It felt perfect.

I tested it with some of my closest friends, the people I knew who would be really honest with me, especially if they didn’t like it! Their instant reaction was incredibly positive. The more I thought about it, the better it felt, the more natural it felt. It was the answer.

I am so happy to have such a strong, fabulous, meaningful name, that has heritage and values behind it.

Thank you Paul for all your support.

The kindness of…

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The popular construct of ‘the kindness of strangers’ was probably made most famous and brought most sharply into relief for us by the damaged, and frankly quite terrified and terrifying character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. (A rather odd juxtaposition is that Kate Adie also used this as a title for one of her autobiographies too…)

However what strikes me as a little odd is that very little is said in popular discourse about the kindness of friends or family.

I’d like to take a moment to redress this.

When I decided to take the momentous- some would say brave, others would say risky- step to set up independently the one thing that overwhelmingly surprised and delighted me was the support and encouragement that was offered to me so generously by my friends. From giving me advice on how to register with Companies House, to helping me decide on a name (more of that to come), to mentoring me on how to approach the strategy of my business, incredible advice on marketing, putting me in touch with potential customers and developing incredible design for my visual identity… Right through to listening to me debate and work answers  out for myself. The list goes on and on. I really want to name names but I’m not sure that my wonderful friends will be comfortable with that.

If I can ask for one thing from you it would be to believe; believe in yourselves, believe in your friends, it is truly priceless and deeply humbling.

Thank you all. You are incredible. I would never be so confident, comfortable or happy taking on this adventure without you. Thanks for your practical help, your support, your belief and your love.