Why Pinch Yourself?

That’s a question I’ve often been asked since Pinch Yourself Communication was launched, so here’s the story behind the name and some of the core beliefs it’s based on…

It was the lowest point in my career. In a moment when I found myself ejected from a redundant global executive role and suddenly unemployed, I decided to share my story and I needed to find the right name to call my personal blog.

A friend who was giving me a hand asked me to tell her what redundancy meant to me.

“There is one expression which keeps coming to mind,” I said. “I’m pinching myself.”

“I know that sounds like a strange thing to say in the circumstances, but I can’t help seeing this as an opportunity.”

That was the start of the pinchmyself blog – ‘one woman’s journey from corporate Australia into uncertainty.’

Since my sabbatical in 2013 took me all across the globe telling stories, it really was a journey.

Well-meaning people cautioned me at the time against writing about redundancy because they thought it could harm my career. (Read more via pinchmyself)

However, I was fortunate enough to be able to take almost a year off work, to travel to multiple countries and meet new people, explore new cultures and languages, and to volunteer in Cambodia for a charity working to protect women and children from people trafficking and sexual abuse. I also explored creatively through singing, photography and creative writing, and started writing a book before I returned the workforce in a senior executive role in the government sector.

I shared the whole experience because there was so much redundancy happening in those years immediately following the Global Financial Crisis, I thought my story might be helpful to others. If that’s of interest, then pinchmyself will tell you more.

A picture called ‘Resilience,’ taken on my sister’s farm in WA, which is the title image for pinchmyself

Since pinchmyself reflected not only what I learned from my creative break, but also what I brought back into the workforce, it felt like a natural place to start when it came time to develop and name my business. See our video.

Pinch Yourself Communication is built on core beliefs that have been shaped by, and have helped shape my life and work

Threats, challenges and issues are not all bad. How much of an opportunity they are comes down to how you think about them, how you plan and what you do. Your story is what you make of it. This is as true for businesses as it is for individuals. Effective communication can help you make the most of the good things and the best of the bad things. Ultimately, all challenges and opportunities are what you make of them.

There is strength in vulnerability. It takes courage and leadership to show vulnerability, but people will respond to it. Tell your authentic story. If you’re a business, tell your people’s stories, tell your customers’ stories. “You’re the only person I know who has been made redundant, taken a year off work and despite not having a job, ended up looking more successful than before,” a friend told me in recent years. Of course she says that, she’s a good friend, and I love her for it. But there’s a universal truth here about the strength in revealing vulnerability, in sharing our authentic selves, particularly in a world where trust is reaching new lows and fake news abounds. Here’s something else that’s interesting. Telling those stories had a positive impact on me too. I felt more accomplished, more empowered and more content by the end of my time off. I remember thinking that if I could bottle the essence of that feeling, it would sell. Of course there’s a more practical way to share it, through working with my clients.

Never lose sight of what’s most important. When you strip away the job titles, the strategies and plans, the projects, the day-to-day delivery and all the window-dressing of your business life, you’re left with only a few things. Your integrity, your sense of purpose and self-worth, your family and friends, your gratitude for, and contribution to life and the people, experiences and world around you. These things are actually what’s most important – regardless of who you are or where you work. This is something to keep in mind when you’re going through difficult change or managing an issue in your career or business.

Get outside your comfort zone. Sometimes you need to make a break from the past and embrace change and uncertainty to experience the greatest creativity, learning and innovation. I had forgotten how much I loved photography and I rediscovered that passion during my break as part of a mindful practice in appreciating the world around me every day. Coupled with the rising trend in visual communication, this led to me to study graphic design and I’ve since produced a number of books. This learning and growth was set in motion by spending time in uncertainty. These are valuable insights into the management of change.

Resilience doesn’t just happen. This is also something that’s as true for individuals as it is for businesses. You have to be aware of the risks and plan for the worst, adopt the right mindset, take care of your physical health, focus on positives, manage the negatives. These are life skills and they’re also critical to business: the identification, preparation and management of issues and crises.

Choose to be motivated by hope rather than by fear. As mentioned in the point above, it’s important to research, plan and measure, and to identify and manage risks. At some point it’s also important to act. Take a chance. Seize the moment. Feel the fear and do it. There will always be risks and problems to solve, just as there will always be naysayers, so stay true to your purpose and keep moving.

A picture taken in downtown Melbourne which is the title image for Pinch Yourself Communication in 2017

The Pinch Yourself Communication purpose is to help clients achieve success through effective communication, storytelling and stakeholder engagement.

The name embodies the power of telling your story with authenticity, humility and integrity, and backing that up with what you do.

It also represents the delight I want my clients to feel when you’re achieving your business goals and leadership aspirations. When you experience the impact of effective communication, you pinch yourself.


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Mairi Barton is a strategic communication and public affairs leader who has influenced and delivered outcomes at the highest levels of the Australian corporate, government and non-profit sectors. Mairi is the founder and Chief Executive of strategic communication agency Pinch Yourself Communication. She is an award-winning former journalist who served in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra. Mairi enjoys photography and posts to her Instagram gallery: @pinchmyself