It was almost exactly one year ago that I took up my virtual pen to write my first blog. I called it ‘Don’t give up the day job!’ as that was the advice I was given when thinking about setting up my mediation business. So in this latest blog I thought I’d reflect on the intervening 12 months and in particular my experiences of the mediation world.
Firstly I must unashamedly give myself a pat on the back. My conclusion a year ago was that “there is much hard graft ahead and I’ll be calling as much on my marketing ability as my mediation skills” – how spot on I was with that point! With apologies to any of my former bosses reading this, I must say I’ve worked harder in this last year than in any of my years in corporate life. Despite this, it hasn’t felt like hard slog as I really feel I’m working on something that is important to me and I’m continually learning. I was also right in thinking my marketing skills would be sorely needed. I always knew that I’d need to do a lot of profile raising activity. Perhaps I underestimated that in addition to telling people about myself, I’d also have to put in a lot of effort to help people understand mediation itself. It has certainly been my experience that whilst a lot of people have heard of mediation, they are not really sure what it is – things I’ve heard include:
So I’ve spent a fair amount of time bringing people up to speed on what mediation is really all about and that mediating every day may not be as calming as mediTating every day.
What has surprised me somewhat though is that the mediation industry itself is not doing more to get the word out. Instead there appears to be something of a preoccupation with a more inward focus with much debate around questions such as ‘who are we’, ‘what should we be’, ‘what do we call ourselves’. Let’s look at some of these debates that have been raging in both real and virtual forums:
So as I look back over my first year I see that I was right to expect to be focused on marketing. For my second year, I’m going to be even more focused on marketing because it is critical that we mediators help our potential clients understand the options open to them. My suggestion would be to shift our focus away from these inwardly directed debates and concentrate instead on really understanding what it is that will encourage people to use mediation, what are the barriers that will stop them and how we can work together to overcome them. There is no doubt that conflict exists everywhere we look. That offers enormous potential for mediation and unlocking that potential should be where we as a profession focus our intellectual, creative and financial resources.
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