Back to basics


Back in June, I attended and spoke at TCMA 2016, the Content Marketing Academy conference. Indeed, the video that’s now on the Home page is my talk from there. I was struck by a thought, a feeling, that grew bigger and bigger over the two days, as we heard from speakers of the calibre of Amy Schmittauer, Ann Handley and Mark Schaefer.

And that thought was this – my website, and the content I’d been producing was bland. Technically correct and competent, but it had no soul. It was lifeless.

Ann talked about being Bigger, Braver, Bolder. Mark urged us to Be More Human. I looked at my site and saw neither. And so unlike the majority that attended the conference, I stopped producing content. I took a couple of weeks to really think about things, and then took action.

The first thing I did was contact Business Storytelling Coach, Kev Anderson, and ask for his help. I also realised that it was time to get our website onto WordPress (it was originally built on Wix back in 2012).

Working with Kevin was great. Cathartic even. I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s been a passion of mine for many years, so rather than being afraid of this process, I was hugely excited about it. I now had a coach who could help me tell my stories.

And so over the course of a couple of months we re-wrote the website content and moved it to the new platform. I love the way our site works and looks now. As a design business, it’s important that we have a beautiful, easy to use site.

However, there was still a nagging ‘thing’ at the back of my mind. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then it hit me. I was listening to my friend Lauren Currie on a recent podcast interview. Lauren has been an inspiration of mine for several years now, since I was introduced to her by my daughter Rebecca back in 2010. I was in the car, driving I can’t recall where, and listening to the interview. Lauren’s mind fascinates me. The way she sees things, and what she then does about it. I’m in awe – I want to be like her when I grow up.

I realised that I’d created a website about this business Ashton McGill. Looking at it, you couldn’t tell if it was 10 people, 100 people, or just me. Yes, the work with Kev had helped to build soul back into it. We now stood for something. But who was ‘we’?

I’ve spent the majority of my career, running or working in large organisations, so my default way has always been to speak about ‘we’. But the thing is, Ashton McGill is just me and Andy most of the time. And having setup Ashton McGill Video recently, which Andy runs, then actually it’s really just me. So wasn’t it time to go back to basics and stop pretending to be something I’m not?

Back to Kev again, my storytelling mentor. We had a great couple of hours last Friday, figuring this out. Over the past week I’ve been tweaking the website. It’s not the finished article yet (will it ever be?), but it feels more like me now.

Ashton McGill is my vehicle to do good work. Work that makes a difference to organisations, people, and society, using the skills and experience I’ve developed over 25 years. Often it’s just me, occasionally I’ll bring in other people, and from time to time I’ll collaborate with others as part of their team. And that’s all absolutely fine.

I’ve realised that I don’t need to conform to anyone else’s ideas, and I’m learning to be comfortable being me again. I don’t need to hide behind an organisation any more.

It’s time to get back to basics.

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