Who is at the centre of your story?

Post #11: Claire reflects on the coincidence of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on 14 February

“…faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Even if you’ve never opened a Bible, you may well have been to a traditional English wedding (parental parish church; bride in a meringue; over-excited tinies in fairytale frocks). If so, you’ll certainly be familiar with these words*, not to mention the ‘awww…’ moment as the reader pauses, then grins at the bride and groom at the final ‘love’.

Fortunately, good humour usually overcomes my linguistic irritation at the idea that this reading is about romantic love and marriage. Rather, the Bible is talking about Christian love, ‘caritas’, better translated (IMHO) in the King James Bible as ‘charity’. Although today, even ‘charity’ isn’t such a great translation, since it tends to conjure up ideas of giving money, rather than loving. Giving is good – but even better is the much more difficult (and not necessarily Christian!) idea of loving thy neighbour (however objectionable) as thyself.

So, why am I musing on the meaning of love, and what has it got to do with corporate reporting, which of course I’m supposed to be thinking about in the context of this blog?

Believe me, in February corporate reporting is never far from my thoughts. With December year ends preparing to announce results, and March year ends starting to draft their annual reports, it could hardly be otherwise. But what’s special about this February (aside from being the first anniversary of this blog!) is that next week, for the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, coincides with Valentine’s Day.

My practical brain busily swings into action: which client am I with? Should I try to squeeze in an early service after the school run or nip into the late one? That might interfere with getting home for flowers and candles though… I know, there’s a 1pm service in town, I could make that if I shift my 12.30 conference call…

Sound familiar? It’s the blessing of modern day life – with today’s communications, we don’t have to choose, we can do it all!

But, amidst the flurry and energy of doing, sometimes meaning gets lost. We’re so busy getting through things to make our next appointment, to meet our next target, that we forget why we’re doing it. Who we’re doing it for. Who is at the centre of the story.

At this time of year, when the reporting schedule starts getting tight, it’s all too easy to forget who should be at the centre of the reporting story, namely our audience. Focus shifts to pleasing ‘internal stakeholders’, ticking the compliance boxes, just getting it done – and we can console ourselves with the thought that there’s always next year to get it right.

Or can we? Because, let’s face it, there’ll be something else getting in the way next year. If we want to produce work we can be proud of, work we can love, then we have to keep the faith even – or especially – when things get tight. It’s our job to be the guardian and the champion of the audience, to keep them central to communication, when our clients are too pressed with other concerns to do so themselves.

But, just as is in life, in reporting there are many, often competing, audiences, all with a claim to be at the centre of the story. How do we deal with that?

The only way to deal with it, I believe, is through thought and reflection. Taking the time to consider, to think, to remember why we’re doing something, will light our way to the answer.

So, perhaps next Wednesday, as Lent starts, Valentine’s Day arrives, and you’re stressed beyond belief at having to make yet another set of corrections to the Remuneration Report, take five minutes to reflect: who’s at the centre of your story?

*I Corinthians 13:13, in case you were wondering.

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