The importance of community in business
Director at Scott Media
Why community and collaborations is important in business
When you look up the word ‘community’ in a dictionary various other words pop up like ‘common ownership’, ‘common interests’, ‘similarities’, ‘similar identities’ and ‘collective’. Indeed in the modern age we see communities all around us, in our streets, our villages, our towns, online via social media sites. We, as human beings, naturally gather together around common causes, interests, passions even through difficulties and challenges like illnesses, physical and mental conditions. We seem to naturally need to draw power, strength and success from each other. It has, of course, always been so. Right back to ancient times, no person is an island, together we’re stronger. It’s hard to fight a fight for survival on your own, it’s easier when you are part of a community. Indeed it’s even been shown in scientific studies that being part of a community is better for your mental health. It directly affects the production of chemicals in your brain.
The Value of Community
I really did not appreciate the value of community until I became a journalist in the late 1980s. I was on a training course in West Sussex and part of the course was to go out into the ‘community’ and find stories – we were marked on our ability to do this. This was the part of the course, most fledgling journalists most feared and yet was the most important. As a 22 year old, I found it a challenge to engage with total strangers and get them to tell me what was going on – in an area I barely knew. We carried ID cards which said ‘Westminster Press Trainee Journalist’ which meant nothing to anyone – if my card had said the name of the local paper it would have carried more weight. In the end I forgot the card and just started talking to people as a fellow member of the community, as I was living locally – I started asking questions as a new person to the area. By starting a conversation in that way, and later explaining what I was doing – the stories started rolling in and I learned a lesson in finding points of commonality. While credibility is important, and frankly can save time, actually chatting about areas of commonality eg. Where we both live – people will often welcome the chance to chat and share. Chatting relaxes people, they feel important, their time is valued and they will share their stories. Later when I became a reporter on a weekly newspaper, and then a daily newspaper, I made it my mission to get to know the receptionists. While other journalists would often be snobby or not even acknowledge them, I knew not to be so arrogant. I knew if someone came in with a good story I would be the first person a receptionist would pick up the phone to. I also knew when I came down to talk to that person, I would treat them with respect and dignity. That was the case even when someone was very abusive. This did sometimes happen as we would occasionally get people from the local mental health home – or someone who was just rude. Scott Media Journalism teaches you about the value of community and I still apply that to my business today – my mantra has always been start local and build from there. Which brings me to business itself. It doesn’t matter if you run a service based business or you sell products. It all starts with people. Those people could be your contacts, your friends, your staff, your suppliers, your customers or the general public. They could be in your own geographical area or somewhere else. They could be on or offline. Sooner or later you realise that human interaction is vital for success in any business. Networking with other people in business is very important for me – because of the nature of my business and because of my personality. I draw energy from people, I’m a classic extrovert, people inspire me, I have limited tolerance for being alone. Therefore no one needs to convince me about the power of community as I live within that power every day. Indeed I need it.
Lockdown and 2020
During lockdown, the power of community took on a whole new meaning for everyone. We had to reassess what community meant to us up and down the land – and, boy, we did that as a collective. We gathered in communities online as never before, we stepped up to help those less fortunate as never before, we put aside differences to focus on what was important as generations had done before us in times of war and conflict. This time we were all connected by the power of technology and those of us in business who did not stick our heads in the sand, who realised we had to ‘do’ and not just ‘shut down’ moved forward in a different way. This led me to See No Bounds, an online community for business owners and charitable organisations and individuals in business, run by Jamie and Charlott who I met through networking. I watched them for a while before committing. I was initially ambivalent wondering how would this actually work? See No Bounds I know the power of community and I knew exactly what to look for – would See No Bounds have what it takes to stand out when there are so many choices out there? As I write today I have more than 100 requests on Facebook alone to join various communities. What makes me choose one over another? However here are five reasons why I realised See No Bounds was a great place to be: *I felt it was about ‘me’ - they both ‘got’ me and my busines showing up time and time again. This is the first and most important thing – this couple showed respect for what I do, what I can offer and they saw it, wanted it and engaged sensibly in a way which reflected their budget. They made me feel so special that joining became a no-brainer. I wanted to support them back and I could see the business benefits over time. *They are passionate – they show deep passion both offline to online. Passion in business doesn’t get you through the good days, it gets you through the bad days, the days when it seems no one cares and nothing is happening. *They are proactive and increasingly so. This couple engaged with their audience and offered multiple touch points through blogging, posting, setting up events, event listings, doing filmed interviews within the community and even going on a tour. *It’s a two way street - I understood the rules of engagement. Business success in public relations (this community is part of public relations) is not about just paying over money. If you just sit back and wait for customers to arrive, you’ll be forever waiting. You have to ‘show up’ to build relationships and show up without expectation too. *It’s growing – being a founder member of something which is clearly growing is priceless. Sometimes in business we have to take risks however I took a considered risk and already I’m getting return on my investment of time and money.
The PR & Business Retreat
As a result of this collaboration with See No Bounds and other fundamental changes I’ve made in my business this last year, I’ve started to fulfil a long held dream – to hold a luxury weekend retreat alongside a small group of business owners giving them direct access to the national media. I’ve always wanted to do this. Over the years, I’ve attended various events in London, and while good, there’s nothing like getting face to face with a journalist and truly understanding how their day works, the dynamic of their industry and how small business owners, experts or charities can effectively engage with them. None of these events ever allowed delegates to get that vital one-to-one time, human to human. They all involved people jockeying for position where the loudest gets heard. My thinking is that by taking people right out of their business, to a luxury setting they would truly engage in a way that isn’t possible in half a day, an evening or virtually. Part of public relations is positive engagement with the media. This is my main area of expertise and it’s important for some business owners to build their brand, to build knowledge of their own expertise and therefore to build their own businesses. Great engagement with the media allows individuals and organisations OF ALL SIZES to punch well above their weight in terms of profile and credibility, alongside getting the word ‘out there’. If you don’t’ believe me, ask yourself this question – why do larger organisations have their own press officers, or several press officers, or several press officers and an outsourced PR team? Why is that? Are they stupid? Are they wasting their money? What’s their purpose? Often business owners don’t treat members of the media like precious business contacts. They bring to the table myths, prejudices and assumptions which do not chime with reality. They forget that the media is made up of people – human beings who are doing their job, some well some not so well, and it’s possible to have a strong relationship with them. I do this on a daily basis. My first ever PR & Business Retreat will take place in early January 2022 and will involve working with me for strategy and as the host, a fixer for all practical logistics, a professional photographer for a photo shoot relative to the stories we discover, two business coaches to help each delegate find the stories they are ready to tell (and hold on to those which should remain private) and a working national freelance journalist working across the popular press today. The value of these experts all in one place (not taking into account the cost of accommodation and food in a four-star spa hotel) is around £3,000. The value of spending a weekend getting up close to a national working journalist has no price, because it so rarely happens. Each delegate will leave with a story strategy, professional images, may have even pitched already and will have an ongoing relationship with a national journalist and with me. I’m running this first event for a maximum of 20 people and keeping the price point at a level where all costs are covered – there will be no profit from this first event. I’m also offering the option to pay in instalments for anyone who is thinking ‘how can I afford this?’ Anyone who is thinking ‘it’s too expensive’ then this simply isn’t the event for you.
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I really did not appreciate the value of community until I became a journalist in the late 1980s. I was on a training course in West Sussex and part of the course was to go out into the ‘community’ and find stories.
Would you like to find out what other people say about me and the community?
I love people. Most journalists do. I’m a natural extrovert any way and I draw energy and ideas from being around other people.
The PR and Business Retreat
Just imagine... you, me, plus a group of amazing business owners hanging out for the weekend in a luxurious hotel in beautiful Cheshire countryside! Bliss…
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