Words Matter …

Karen Devine, WhiteLight Consulting addressing the recent Drogheda City Status Group meeting.
Karen Devine, WhiteLight Consulting addressing the recent Drogheda City Status Group meeting.

Karen Devine, Director of WhiteLight Consulting, has lived in Drogheda since 2000 and started her business here in 2003. As well as her work in Event Management and PR, Karen has been involved in significant local campaigns such as the opening of Drogheda Women’s Refuge, Boomerang Youth Café and Fleadh Cheoil. She holds a Masters in Political and Public Communications and is passionate about the motivational power of words to change Drogheda’s future.

She was recently invited to address the Drogheda City Status Group on Drogheda’s ambition to be a designated a city and the role that Project 2040 has to play. The event was hosted by Mayor Cllr. Frank Godfrey with MC Gerry Kelly of LMFM. Fellow speakers were Ann McVeigh, Peter Monahan, Dr. Brian Hughes and Rory Scott. Drogheda is Ireland’s largest town with a population that is forecast to grow by another 20,000 people over the coming decade. Karen’s address focused on how the people of Drogheda talk about our town and how the words we choose have the power to change perceptions of the town nationally.

Here’s the text of Karen’s address:

Last week I was having my nails done in the beauticians. The lovely young girl who looks after me talked excitedly about the recent Fleadh. She couldn’t get over how the town felt, how much fun she had and how much the visitors loved our town. She candidly admitted that, in the past, if anyone had said anything nice about Drogheda that her normal response was “Really? D’ya think?”… and that for me sums up our greatest, but not insurmountable, challenge. If we don’t believe in our town. If we don’t think its great. If we don’t talk glowingly about our town, our community and our ambition for the future, how can we expect anyone else to buy into it? 

How we talk about Drogheda matters!

If you were looking for a new place to live, or a place to start a new business, or a European location for your multi-national company, what would be on your checklist?

  • Houses
  • Community
  • Connectivity (Airport, Port, Motorway, Train)
  • Transport
  • Arts and Culture
  • Sports
  • And I’d argue that possibly the most important is the right attitude … not blind positivity, but an upbeat sense of the possible and an ambition to achieve it.

ATTITUDE AND AMBITION

We have everything we need. We just need to adopt the right attitude and the ambition. Our attitude needs to be “Yes we can” and our ambition needs to ask “what’s the first step?”.

PROJECT 2040 IS ONLY A BIT OF PAPER

In essence, Project 2040 is nothing more than a bit of paper. We, the people of Drogheda, can not “expect” to deliver anything for us. The impact of Project 2040 is what we make of it as a community.

It does however, represent an important shift from short-term planning and reactionary behaviour to long-term planning and investment. And that’s a welcome change. But if want Project 2040 to deliver for Drogheda, it’s up to us to be innovative, to use our strengths and resources and our positive attitude and ambition to make things happen. We must move away from gripes of the past and look proactively at long-term planning that will make Drogheda a better place in which to live, work, invest and visit.

LEADERSHIP COMES FROM US

And that leadership comes from us, the people. We are all leaders. We have to stop waiting for others to be “good leaders” or wringing our hands in despair at the “absence of leadership”.

Instead we all have to recognise that we are all leaders in our own sphere of influence. Think about it … think about where you can be a catalyst for change. What do you see in this community that could be improved? You don’t have to have all the answers. All you really need to do is to ask yourself “what’s the first step and who do I need to help me?”.

If Rory had stopped and thought about the enormity of the logistics of the Fleadh, he might have dismissed the idea. Instead, he had the idea and he thought “who do I need to help me explore this idea?” and he gathered us all around the table that night and suddenly the impossibly large seemed very achievable.

Leadership isn’t someone else … leadership is you. Leadership is me. Leadership is all of us working together as a community. You have no idea how strong we can be when we collaborate to drive change. Collaboration gives us the power to overcome the negative. It makes us smarter, stronger and more resilient.

SO DO WORDS MATTER?

Yes … they … do. How we talk to ourselves, each other and the outside world about Drogheda matters.

We need to:

  • Stop focusing on what we don’t have
  • Stop ignoring what we do have
  • Change the narrative
  • Paint a picture of a new future for Drogheda
  • Tells others what we have, why we’re proud and where we’re going

We have everything we need. But our narrative needs to change. We need to think about Drogheda and talk about Drogheda in glowing terms.

We need to unite behind people who are working hard for the town instead of standing by and criticising.

We need to think of Drogheda as a tourism town, a hub of enterprise and innovation and as a driver of economic and social activity for this region.

We need to raise our kids with a sense of pride and a sense of responsibility for the future of their town.

We need the word “Drogheda” to be synonymous with vibrancy, innovation and ambition.

We’ll never become a city if we don’t have the courage to believe in ourselves … we have everything we need, we just need to adopt the right attitude and ambition and Drogheda will become unstoppable!

SO BACK TO MY YOUNG FRIEND IN THE BEAUTICIANS …

I asked her how she could help to change Drogheda’s future. She looked slightly puzzled.

So I helped her out … how about when someone says something nice about Drogheda not questioning it, not saying “really, d’ya think?”. What about saying:

“I know, I love my town”

And her eyes lit up, and she beamed and said … “and I could tell them something that I love about the town, something they might not know” and in that moment she got it … she caught a healthy dose of pride in Drogheda. I could see the spark in her eyes, I could see the smile on her face, she got it. She understood that this is a great town and that she needs to play her part as an ambassador for Drogheda. She knew that if she talked positively about Drogheda to each client she saw each day that she could play a part in changing our story.

Drogheda is an amazing place to live, work and visit. And working together it can only get better and better. We just need to remind ourselves, each other and the outside world of how wonderful it is … and that starts with the words that we use!   

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