In hindsight, it looks like a master plan

In hindsight, it almost looks like it was a master plan: spend two to three years each at different international organizations, building up the skills, experience and network I would need to launch a (hopefully!) successful communications consultancy. In reality, it was more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where deliberate decisions at specific moments in time have brought me to this weekend and the launch of THAT COMMS GUY.

I surprised myself last May when an afternoon of introspection brought me to the conclusion that the time is right for me to have a go at establishing myself as an independent communications consultant. The plan came together quite quickly once I made the decision (naturally with the full support of Nadine). Thus, as of October, I will reduce my hours and responsibilities at the Ecolint Alumni Office, enabling me to start taking on clients while retaining some guaranteed regular income. (I’m grateful to my boss for facilitating this.)

My high-level concept for this venture is to be the MacGyver of communications for non-profit organizations in the Geneva area. If you are unfamiliar with the aforementioned TV series, let me quote from the Wikipedia article (with some edits to adapt it to my situation):

“Resourceful and possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences [communications techniques], he solves complex problems by making things out of ordinary objects, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife [Irish good humour]. He prefers non-violent [non-expensive] resolutions and prefers not to handle a gun.”

In practice I’m proposing services in three broad areas: writing and editing copy, event management, and community engagement strategies. I’m focusing on the Geneva region and on non-profit associations, which is not, of course, to say that I would turn down clients that don’t meet one or other of those criteria. However Switzerland’s higher costs make it unlikely that I’ll be a viable option for organizations based elsewhere, and with the majority of my experience having been in the non-profit sector, that’s where I’m hoping to carve out my niche.

My new website will be an important marketing tool for the business. I’ve created six WordPress-based sites before, but this is the first time I’ve worked with a premium (i.e. paid-for) theme. During the development phase I received lots of valuable comments from various friends and relations, which has helped me to bring it to a point where I’m happy to launch it publicly. Further feedback will be most welcome of course!

So, not a master plan, but definitely the result of a set of deliberate decisions, some professional, some personal. It was not pure chance that my switch from EAZA (in Amsterdam) back to the EBU (Geneva) in 2011 coincided with the birth of Robert, nor that I started my current job at Ecolint just as Declan was born in 2014. Robert starts school tomorrow, and it would be fair to say that this next significant milestone was not irrelevant in the decision to try to establish a more flexible professional arrangement.

It’s the end of the beginning for this new adventure. I’m looking forward to the challenge. And if you hear of an organization facing a communications-related challenge, don’t forget to recommend that comms guy; you know… the one with that name you can never remember how to pronounce.

Alumnographics: graphically representing a community using basic software

As social media have become the predominant channel for spreading information and ideas, infographics (which have been around for a long, long time) have become hugely popular for organizations of all kinds. As tools for promotion, advocacy, awareness-raising or marketing they can convey information much more efficiently than blocks of text or tables of figures.

Working at the International School of Geneva’s Alumni Office, I realized the membership database represented a wealth of information that, properly presented, could help us Read more

Renaming an association magazine to bring it to a wider audience

One of the first things we did when I started working at the European Association of Zoos & Aquaria in 2009 was change the name of the quarterly magazine from EAZA NEWS to ZOOQUARIA. The existing title wasn’t terrible, but to me it felt a bit stale and boring. I wanted a title that would appeal to the staff at member institutions even if they didn’t know about EAZA. The new title also gave us more scope to promote and use the magazine beyond the membership.

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