In this scene from Sister Act, Delores (or Sister Mary Clarence) was in charge of turning a sisterhood of nuns into a choir. She first had to separate the sections because the altos, tenors, and sopranos were all mixed together. That’s choir 101! Once they were in formation, she gave them all their separate notes to sing. But they still sounded like a disaster! One person was way too high and loud while another wasn’t singing at all.
Since this movie came out in 1992, I am going to take a leap and say it’s not a spoiler to tell you that it all came together in the end. But it begs the question, how do you make several very different voices into one? How do you harmonize as a company? NO, seriously I'm asking lol. As a new company, we are trying to do exactly that.
Have you ever tried to do a cartwheel long after childhood? In your mind it's going to be this glorious aerial-like graceful venture, but in reality it's clunky, your legs aren’t straight and you’re halfway falling out of it before both feet touch the ground? Yep, it’s sort of like that. We know what we want to do but the mechanics and execution are two different things!
While there is a lot of synergy and clarity between the members of our team, there is still something special about crafting the company's voice. When there are so many options, expectations, and reactions, it can be complicated to determine how to move forward with consistency.
Our first priority in determining our company's voice, was first getting clear about our mission. We want to be "a soft place to land". For us that means creating opportunities to indulge nostalgia, play, and joy. Now, that sounds like fun doesn't it? But what happens when there's breaking news, that doesn't fit any of those categories and directly impacts our audience?
Turns out we had to do exactly that when the day after we launched, the news about a possible Roe V Wade decision was leaked. All of our team members feel deeply about reproductive rights, but what would our company say? How would we remain true to being a soft place to land when the news is anything but?!
Its a question we are still pondering. We want to find the right balancing of creating nostalgia, play, and joy while still being a company of substance. Figuring this out has taken some “flapping, flying, falling" practice.
Because there's a difference between figuring out our personal voice and figuring out the company voice. How each of our team members individually write about reproduction rights, Mother's Day, or the New Buffalo Shooting is so specific. We each have clear voices, clear boundaries, and clear ways of utilizing social media. But now we are working together to figure out the Herself voice.
For example, on my personal social media pages its not unusual for me to use four-letter words as I put my opinions, anger, rage, hope or joy on full display. As an antiracism educator there is a lot of pondering and teaching on my platform. I don't mind taking strong stances. I make it very clear that the public purpose of those pages is three-fold: to celebrate Blackness, to undermine whiteness, and center the marginalized. Sometimes that means being soft and gentle and taking the time to acknowledge the fears, concerns or sadness of my audience. But sometimes it means being hard, truthful, maybe even unlikeable. There is a great deal of thoughtfulness that has gone into crafting my own public voice. But now I am working to craft Herself Media's voice, and let me tell you, Im so glad to not be doing it alone!
When the news about Roe V Wade broke, we all immediately started texting one another. How would Herself acknowledge this breaking news, make clear our stance on reproductive rights, and still be a place that our audience finds soft, gentle, kind in the midst of the horrendous news? We knew what we wanted to have happen. The question was still how! Talk about an exercise in creativity. It wasn't easy to figure out, but it felt possible because we knew our true north. We were asking the right questions out of a sense of mission.
In the end, this is the post we decided to create:
By asking ourselves what could we give our audience- what could we give to women who were rightfully angry or scared- we decided we could offer confidence through affirmation. We decided we could be encouraging by countering the implicit assumption that we are not capable of determining what is good for our own bodies. To do that we didn't need four-letter words or a soliloquy like I would post on my socials. Instead we needed to embody the friend who wants to remind you of who you are- despite the lies of the world. Our true north led us to the right answer for us.
And we continue to work through this. In the aftermath of the New Buffalo Shooting, we were originally scheduled to make a post about living freely. It was a lovely post. It was soft. It was sweet. But it was also out of touch. How could we possibly post about living freely when many of us were at that moment afraid of going to our own grocery store? That isn't living freely. And ignoring how many people in our audience weren't feeling free, well, that isn't soft either. In fact, it might have felt more like gaslighting. We knew we had to change that post to meet the moment. Could we give people a break from the trauma while also acknowledging trauma?
Honestly, we don't know yet, but we are going to try.
We are going to keep developing what we know is a delicate ecosystem. And we probably wont always get it right. But currently, our practice is to think of ourselves as falling (after all, we are equally impacted by breaking news too!) But together, we pull the strings of our parachute. Our mission, our vision, our care for our audience (our parachute) pulls us back from spiraling. When it opens, it draws us back up where we can see the full picture. It slows us down, helping to catch ourselves before crash to the ground. Our parachute allows us to land softly, and we hope it will do the same for our audience.
How does your mission impact your social media voice?
Do you have a parachute that helps you gain perspective when you feel yourself crashing?
Is your personal brand voice different from your company's brand voice?
Do you have a team of people who can help you think creatively when it comes to being true to your brand's voice?
Cree Summer is our spotlight this week. Her iconic role in A Different World meant everything to me because she was a stand-out character for quirky, powerful, and opinionated black girls! After a different world, Cree became the voice for hundreds of characters in games, cartoons, commercials and movies. Her voice is in many ways the soundtrack for my childhood and generations after. At 52 years old, she is more inspiring than ever, fully comfortable in her skin and living life as her full self.