‘It’s just business.’
This is an adage that does not, has not, and never will sit well with me.
Let’s begin with the term ‘just’. You meet a need, not exceed it. You’re not hitting something with enthusiasm, but purely delivering what’s expected. In this context, it allows people and businesses to settle for something that may be less than their best. The adage can be used to justify the removal of the human element and turn a business into a mathematical equation. Businesses need to put the health of their business first, but does this excuse poor treatment of human capital in the process?
"I feel proud that we’re not ‘just’ anything."
I share this with you, because as I continue to reflect on my involvement in Gippslandia, during the varied challenges that any business typically faces, I feel proud that we’re not ‘just’ anything. Our people — which is as much you, our reader, as it is the team writing, shooting photographs, or advertising — always have been, and will be, at our heart.
Since my first column in March, the world has been turned on its head. Many businesses have closed their doors and only history will tell us how far through this pandemic we now are. As with other industries, many local publications have been decimated by Covid-19. The very people often writing stories about supporting our local businesses may no longer be in the same position to do so themselves — this is alarming for us all.
So far, Gippslandia hasn’t survived this mess due to exceptional leadership, deep pockets or progressive business planning. We’ve survived because, as a passion project, all those who make the paper derive their income elsewhere. If it were alone feeding the family, we’d have starved long ago.
"We do feel that we’re positioned to weather the current storm"
In saying this, we do feel that we’re positioned to weather the current storm. In 2018, we undertook some in-depth internal planning and recognised that we needed to diversify our income streams, which would allow the community to have more involvement in our operations and allow us to better represent other creatives in the region.
The planning evolved, and with some funding Gippslandia has been redeveloping our online footprint with a new website and an online store, showcasing the best products from makers right across our region. It’s a store that we hope will eventually include experiences, products and produce that helps with our mission of highlighting how great this region is.
The website is a substantial investment in our future and, as a result, we’ve fortunately secured three highly talented people to assist with growing Gippslandia.
Rowenna Dunn has joined us in a marketing and partnerships role, primarily working with our supporters, advertisers and broader community partners.
Lacey Yeomans has formally joined the team as our digital editor, taking care of social media, campaigns and managing our online content.
Asheda Weekes has been our editorial assistant and is now our digital content manager, aka the guru who manages everything related to our new online store.
In their short time working with Gippslandia they’ve proven to be incredibly capable, and I’ve never slept better knowing that Gippslandia is in very good hands.
In finding our new team members, we first had to clarify our values, and what it boiled down to was passion, initiative, reliability and the ability to own it. This team has these traits in spades.
As part of the evolution of our business, we received feedback from many of you wanting to be more involved in Gippslandia, and as a result, our membership packages were born, as you’ll see when our new website launches.
We have also reviewed a couple of key sentences. Previously, we stated that Gippslandia was “for, and about, the Latrobe Valley & Gippsland”. This felt contradictory to our belief in a unified Gippsland voice. We’ve also chosen to be more inclusive and highlight that we’re a newspaper created by the people of Gippsland. As this is a project with our friends throughout the region.
It may seem trivial, but addressing these phrases gives us an improved sense of self and more confidence for our supporters to get behind the Gippslandia project.
Recently, many of you may have seen, or even better may have purchased, a ‘Meaningful Post’ from us. Since the recent bushfires season, we’ve been keen to throw our support behind the community and initially decided to promote and support the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund. Eventually, we launched the ‘Meaningful Post’ campaign and have raised funding for almost 1000 fence posts for East Gippsland so far. Through the power of partnerships, every cent raised went directly to purchasing posts, which will be delivered directly to the farmers in need. It’s taken little more than elbow grease and strategic collaboration, but this community campaign has left us glowing with pride — thank you GERF and Jelfor Timbers for partnering with us on this project!
Lastly, it’s not just contributors and members needed to make Gippslandia hum — we require experienced and skilled board members too. We’ve gratefully received assistance to improve our knowledge on board governance and, along with a new strategic plan currently being developed by Ryan Leslie of Aerium Consulting, we’re planning to expand our Board of Management and will soon be seeking expressions of interest.
I hope this wrap-up shows the depth of work happening behind the scenes. It’s through building a sustainable business model that we ensure that we’re able to release a free publication every quarter. It’s a lot of work in three months and we feel that we’ve been able to create more opportunities to engage with, support and feel part of Gippslandia than ever before. This is important to us because we require your support to continue delivering our unique take of local storytelling. Thanks for standing with us and being the Proud Gippslandian that you choose to be.
If there is something in particular that you wish to know or discuss, please get in touch and I’ll either address it here in a future column or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.