First Christmas, first paid staff member and funding help

Having your first company must be a bit like having your first baby. Here we are, approaching our first Christmas. Everything's new, we're making some mistakes, relishing all the experiences and learning so much every day.

This week we offered a job to our first member of staff through the Future Jobs Fund, which means we'll be reimbursed for their wages for 25 hours per week and they'll receive expert coaching from social enterprise Striding Out.

It's an exciting step. We'll have to set ourselves up to pay National Insurance and monthly wages. And I'll have someone to help me with everything from sifting through tender opportunities to chasing invoices and helping us minimise our impact on the environment. After the first six months, we'll have to ensure we can afford to keep paying her without the Future Jobs Fund help. Quite a responsibility. But my hope is that our new person will more than pay for herself.

The other thing I'm doing right now is trying to secure some more funding to run more Poached programmes in the new year. Strange that as a communications professional I should have so much difficulty articulating my case to a funder. I think the problem is that when you're so close to something it's nearly impossible to see the best way to describe it to someone else. Fortunately, I was offered some free consultancy with PA Consulting through UnLtd. They took a look at a specific funding application and then took me right back to basics in terms of the impact we are having, how and why we're the people to do this kind of work. What a relief! I've now got an outline proposal to work on and a lot more confidence that I can convince funders that we're worthwhile. Well, of course we are.

This week was also our first Christmas party with a mixture of supporters, clients and trainees coming along. Incredible to think that at this time last year, Poached was still just an idea. We didn't have any funding, didn't have anywhere to work from and didn't really have much of a clue. Now we've got clients, trainees, staff, a shared office, an identity and an emerging culture of our own.

Just want to finish, then, with a big thank you to everyone who's helped to get us this far.

PR for the right reasons: a foray to the other side

Well, it's back to business here at Poached after a brief but productive pause. I have a new trainee, Louise, who is working for our new client, Healthy Planet.

This is my idea of Poached-lite now that the pilot is over: just one trainee who's main job is to help me out and make the most of any opportunity that comes their way. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I'm still working to build business, gain new funding and get us set up for the future.

Healthy Planet has added an exciting new element to our work here at Poached and, in truth, one I was reticent to take on: PR.

What I know about public relations (or dealing with the media, which is what it mainly amounts to) stems from being on the other side of the fence. As a former journalist I know what annoyed me, what was helpful, and what I'd like to receive from a PR agency. But I've always steered clear of 'doing' PR - it feels a bit too much like crossing to the dark side.

There's another way of looking at it though. Right now I'm working for a client who has really interesting and positive messages about people and the environment. They're doing innovative things with technology, schools and businesses to try to gain as much as possible for the environment from the transactions that we would be making anyway - in this case buying gifts and paying rates.

So it's not difficult to want to help get those messages out there. And I'm sure journalists and the public will be keen to hear them. So, here's what I'm trying to do for Healthy Planet in a neat five points that you might find useful too.

1. Make sure the messages are simple and clear. Try not to do too much with the one press release/event/email/etc. People need one message that they can grasp quickly and easily - without having to think too hard or dig around for more information.

2. Think about what the audience will find interesting about it. Ask what's in it for them? Then lead with that. Good journalists will be attuned to their audiences' interests and will be more likely to run the story.

3. Target the message to an audience that has reason to be interested. Wasting your time on people or media outlets that will never want to run your story is also a waste of their time and damages your reputation.

4. Spend time getting the information right. Make sure it's concise, has all the facts, is set out clearly and consistently and has contact details and links to further information.

5. Take a deep breath and go for it. The worst you'll get is silence.