Values versus value…

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When I decided that I wanted to dedicate my freelance career to working with charities, credit unions and co-operatives it was primarily because these organisations had an absolute fit with my own personal values and would inspire me to do more, do better, be better. What is a greater motivation to get up in the morning and be the best that you can be?

Yes, I absolutely understood that in the current climate there was a need within the sector, particularly given the cuts in funding and the struggle with the onset of austerity that has damaged so many organisations to the bone. I knew too that, as in the corporate world, the first roles to go (and quite rightly) would be in ‘non-essential’ areas.

I was sure that there was a way for me to offer my help, my support and experience.

I knew that there was a need and I wanted to step into that gap and offer a professional service that was collaborative, inclusive and a professional offer at a price that was fair to all.

I know that many people thought I was naive and probably in need of a dose of reality. Perhaps some still do.

What I have learned though is that communications activity, that can add significant value to organisations, is being given to people who already have a full time job. Perhaps they have shown some enthusiasm or commitment for it but they are often struggling to fit it in alongside the day job. I’ve seen people carrying out these ‘side of desk’ roles who are terrified, lost, stressed and even downright resentful. None of these are good for the individual or the organisation.

I now know I can help more than I thought and it’s why I’m proud of the choice I made and the pricing structure I have in place. I refuse to charge overly expensive day rates or project rates for third sector organisations. My view is that you can be fair, honest and offer a quality, efficient and bespoke service at a reasonable rate.

Challenge me on that if you like but I stand by it wholeheartedly.

The resolution will not be televised…

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At the end of a year and the beginning of a new one we’re culturally encouraged, almost expected, to make a set of resolutions, promises to ourselves – and more often others – that we will try harder, strive to be better, give over old habits. Many expect us to declare them from the rooftops, hold them out for approval and judgement, only to then have to turn our blushes and apologetic eyes to the world if we fall short of our grand ambitions.

Surely this is why many see their resolutions out till the end of January (mid-February for those with great will-power) and then abandon them as a lost cause for another year. That doesn’t seem the best model for improvement does it?

I’ve outlined a set of objectives and ambitions for Wochi for 2015, and beyond but – call me pedantic – I’m refusing to call them new year resolutions, that terminology just doesn’t sit comfortably. I believe that in order to succeed we need to be flexible, responsive and agile to change. That’s something that is difficult to achieve when you set out a rigid goal at the beginning of the year without knowing what the year holds.

I’ll share these objectives with you in the coming weeks but as a principle I agree with this quote from Henry Moore;

“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years”.

That is not to say that the objective and ambition will bend with direction of the wind, it’s the activity required to make the ambition a reality that will have to flex as circumstances change and develop. That’s incredibly exciting and inspiring.

The thing that will always remain steadfast is the bedrock of Wochi; the values that it stands for and the purpose for which it was created. Future blogs will continue to explore these values and how they work in action and I’d love your feedback and views on them and how we can continue to develop further through new opportunities.

For now though I’d like to wish you a happy, peaceful and incredibly successful 2015.

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

 

The Wochi story : The dream…

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I absolutely believe in the co-operative values and principles, as anyone who knows me will tell you. For me, the (acknowledged) heritage of the co-operative movement, the story of the Rochdale Pioneers is the most perfect story that could ever have been written about a business model. Those of us that believe passionately in it have a duty to keep the principles alive in everything we do.

I am proud therefore to have worked for The Co-operative for over 16 years. I am also proud to have served as an elected member of the Group. I’m even more proud to have worked with incredible people to campaign for and promote the inspirational work that the Group has done, not least the ground-breaking Ethical Plan.

People have said that makes me a Co-op Geek, but I’m happy to wear that badge.

As a lover of language too, a flag-bearer, a pedant, a champion of the power of words and what some would consider a weaver of the spell of communication; I have been privileged to combine two loves in one for a long time.

For some time I have been dreaming of stepping out of the corporate world, following a dream and setting up independently. My dream has two pillars.

  • To set up independently to primarily offer communication support to charities, co-ops, credit unions and other values driven organisations
  • To become a co-operative to support the principle of co-operation among co-operatives

I’ve taken the leap to the first and I’m really embracing the challenge. My first two weeks have been exciting and incredibly rewarding. I will be striving to ensure it continues in that vein. The second will no doubt take longer but it’s the logical path so I will continue towards it.

your support and good wishes are so gratefully received and incredibly valued.

Thanks

Mary

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