There’s nothing like catching up with old and very good friends, and our Emma was delighted to do just that when she chatted to former publisher Lorraine Williams, who co-founded and runs The Thyroid Trust.
24 fingers: Good morning, everybody. It’s Emma here from 24 Fingers, a social media agency in Brentwood, in Essex. Today I’ve gone across the pond and I’m chatting to the lovely Lorraine Williams from The Thyroid Trust in Kent. Hi, Lorraine.
Lorraine: Hi, Emma. Thanks for having me.
24 fingers: Absolute pleasure. So this is really special for me. So Lorraine and I’ve known each other for over 20 years. We were trying to work it out this morning and we both look exactly the same. Well, we think we do anyway. Lorraine, if you’re ready I’m going to kick off – what’s your favourite word?
Lorraine: Okay, I had to think long and hard about this because I like lots of words. My favourite word in all the world is love.
24 fingers: Oh, love it. What gets you up in the morning?
Lorraine: Nowadays, it’s a sense of compelling purpose. Running The Thyroid Trust feels like important work. I am actually the only member of staff and there’s quite a lot to do. I wake up with my mind going through all the things that need to be done, leap up and get on with them. It motivates me a lot.
24 fingers: What do you truly honestly think of social media?
Lorraine: I truly and honestly totally love it. I think it’s fantastic. And, I’m old enough to remember life before there was social media. And growing up as a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s quite difficult to find like-minded people and now that’s so easy. And it was quite difficult to find, sort of interesting cultural stuff, music, whatever now that’s really easy. I think you know what social media brings to society in terms of connecting us, making information readily available, is absolutely revolutionary, and I think it’s really exciting and I’m really into it.
24 fingers: She’s a fan. So go and follow Lorraine on Twitter because she’s brilliant on there.
24 fingers: Go follow it. At the minute charities are really impacted by corona. What do you think is the biggest challenge to your industry, let’s just say for now, charity, I know that you’re a mindfulness practitioner as well. What do you think is the biggest impact/challenge for you?
Lorraine: Well, the complete uncertainty of the present situation, obviously, and that’s the same challenge facing everyone, an individual, an organisation and all sectors. But charities typically raise a lot of money from mass participation events, for example. And obviously, none of those are going ahead. And charities benefit when people feel reasonably comfortably well off and able to give and there’s not so many people in that comfortable situation at the moment. Yeah, it’s a whole untold future that we’re gonna have to navigate and we’re gonna have to think very nimbly. That’s challenging.
24 fingers: I’m sure you’ll do it. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Lorraine: I either wanted to be Prime Minister, or I wanted to be a dress designer. One of those two things.
24 fingers: What led you to your current career?
Lorraine: Well, I kind of bumbled into it if I’m completely honest. Again, talking about growing up, communications was always something that people told me I was good at, and I always enjoyed words. Maybe I must have dreamt of being a writer at one point, but that wasn’t something that I had any idea you could actually make a living at. We were growing up, we didn’t have much money and, like I said, I felt quite bored a lot of the time as a child. So I think my primary motivators when I started my career were to be A not bored and B not poor. I threw myself into London working life as you did Emma, with those two things really driving me. I worked in publishing for 10 years, I started out doing media sales all the way up to the publisher.
About 10 years in, I had a bit of an epiphany that I wanted to do something a bit more worthwhile, a bit more meaningful. I was also very excited by what was at the time, new emerging digital technologies. So I made a career shift and started working for organisations that were trying to do some good in the world and particularly using new technologies. I ended up working for some quite big charities, doing fundraising, marketing. In terms of how I ended up where I am now doing what I am now, basically, I got ill.
My thyroid condition knocked me utterly sideways for about 18 months, and stopped me from being able to work. I ended up doing bits and pieces of freelance work using the various skills that I’ve got. I started running a support group for thyroid patients because I wanted there to be one and there wasn’t. Run that for a few years as a volunteer and ended up with enough people who carried on with that. Then about two years after I stopped being involved, we were offered funding to set up the charity group. I was asked to lead it, which was a huge honour. It seemed to fit my skill set and was something I’m very passionate about. So, here we are.
24 fingers: At this point, I have to say, Lorraine was a fantastic media salesperson, and also she was a great publisher as well. We worked in the West End, there were budgets, there was time, there were expense accounts and we sat in the pub most afternoons.
Lorraine: There were a lot of long lunches…
24 fingers: There were long lunches, late nights and yeah, it was bloody amazing. I loved it.
Lorraine: It was great fun. We worked hard and we played hard. So cliche but it was good fun.
24 fingers: Exactly, good memories. So your favourite word was love. Can you use it in a sentence?
Lorraine: Yes, I can. Love is all around, love is all there is.
24 fingers: Very good. I think that was in Love Actually, actually…
Lorraine: Oh god.
24 fingers: No, no, no, it sounds like it might well be, I don’t know. Can you make your word rhyme?
Lorraine: Yes I can: love is all around, love is all there is, I’m you and you’re me, life is simply bliss. I told you I’m into mindful stuff as well. I thought I’d warn you about that.
24 fingers: That was good. What advice would you give to your younger bored self?
Lorraine: I wish that somebody had said to me or I would say to myself: “you can do anything” because I had no idea. I think that’s the best thing anybody can say to a young person, really do what you want to do. Don’t be worried about being bored, don’t be worried about being poor, because life is abundant and varied and go out there and do the things you want to do.
24 fingers: You don’t realise it at the time, do you?
Lorraine: No, no idea.
24 fingers: What’s the best thing anyone’s ever done for you?
Lorraine: It has to be a benefactor who suggested to us, that we set up The Thyroid Trust and basically made it possible for my role to be paid and has been fantastically supportive from the beginning and continues to be. That’s incredible because we wouldn’t have the charity without that faith and that financial support. I know he wants to remain anonymous, but what he’s done for us is incredible.
24 fingers: Amazing. Tell us, though you may not have had it yet, what’s been your career-defining moment?
Lorraine: No, unfortunately being ill. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now, if that hadn’t happened. That sounds a bit grim, doesn’t it?
24 fingers: No, no.
Lorraine: But it has led me to really interesting and meaningful work, and it’s enabled me to help other people. So it’s what they say every cloud has a silver lining. I wouldn’t wish being ill on anybody or myself but yes, it’s life’s rich tapestry isn’t it? It has defined the path I’ve ended up taking.
24 fingers: Definitely on that because challenges in my life has definitely led to some really great things. At the time it didn’t feel like that. So if you won a big award of some kind, who would you thank?
Lorraine: Well, if that were ever to happen, there would be so many people to thank. First of all, I’d say my husband for just being the most amazing support and standing by me, and my family for giving me some kind of moral compass, which has guided me through my life and been really important. A lot of people don’t come from families that have that sort of solid, something that gives you strength to get through things. I think that’s really important. And then whatever I was ever to win an award for, if I ever did, whatever team of people I was working with, would have done the lion’s share of the work, I’m sure. And so there would be a long list of people that I have worked with up to today.
24 fingers: 100%.
Lorraine: I feel like I’ve just won an award Emma, that felt a really weird experience. I’m filled with gratitude and love now. You’ll have to send some chocolate or something as a pretend award.
24 fingers: We’ll just call you Gywnnie. Can you give us a timesaver of the day?
Lorraine: Yes, meditate. Meditate for 20 minutes. However pressurised your life might feel, however much you think you have to do, make the time to do a little bit of mindfulness practice. And actually, even if you really literally can’t spare 20 minutes, do like a little three-minute meditation or something because it’s like plugging yourself into the universe and re-energising you. Everything is clearer, time opens up. So I can’t recommend meditation highly enough. And just to emphasise that it doesn’t have to be done in a particular way for a particular amount of time. There’s lots of different ways that you can practice mindfulness meditation in your life. It’s really worth finding a way that works for you and doing something regularly helps.
24 fingers: I think those daily behaviours really make a difference, don’t they?
Lorraine: Yeah, absolutely. We did a self care event recently for The Thyroid Trust, we had a wonderful woman called Michelle who came. She’s a yoga teacher, but she had us doing self massage, and like a lot of people in the group are really not very well and a bit older so you had to do like chair yoga, and then some breathing exercises and meditation. So use of those self care practices is really valuable. –
24 fingers: Especially right now, you know what I mean.
Lorraine: Yeah, it’s easy to just get wrapped up in your head and think of all these other things to do. And these are the things I’m not happy about, that is draining. It takes a lot out of you. So, just to show it has an effect.
24 fingers: Where do you see your charity or your industry in 24 months?
Lorraine: Well it’s two separate questions, isn’t it? So, the industry is the charity sector. This has a very uncertain future. I suspect there might end up being fewer charities as people might have to merge and a lot of things will have to be done differently. In terms of The Thyroid Trust, I really hope that we will come through this and I believe that we can, because I believe that what we’re doing, we’re doing pretty well. We’re getting a lot of positive feedback and a lot of interest.
So I hope in 24 months we will be a little bit bigger and a little bit more secure. Well, actually, let me speak reality as I want it to be. I believe in 24 months we will be a secure, well-established, sustainable organisation, because I’ll be honest with you at the moment, it all feels quite precarious. We only completed our registration with the Charity Commission a year ago and the pandemic happened. Tough times ahead, but we’re determined.
24 fingers: You got this. Where were you 24 months ago?
Lorraine: We were about six months into our journey with The Thyroid Trust. So we’d created the brand, set up the website. And we’re still building boards, getting some really good medics and people with professional expertise on board. We were preparing for a big debate that was gonna happen in the House of Lords in June about thyroid treatment, which ended up leading to a huge amount of work for us.
We were just sort of on the cusp of that, we were sitting thinking: “This debate is happening, it’s really important. Nobody else is sending parliamentarians detailed information about why it’s important, we must do this, start preparing the briefing for that”. Really just gearing up and it’s really important I was still working for a number of clients. I was doing some marketing stuff and building websites for people. I had more time in my social life and I think I didn’t quite know what was gonna hit me really. Two years later, here we are.
24 fingers: It’s great. What’s an interesting fact about the charity?
Lorraine: So, we’re talking about The Thyroid Trust, and I bet lots of people watching this, have no idea what that means, what a thyroid is. So your thyroid interesting fact, is a butterfly shaped gland, sits in your neck, and it controls every cell in your body. So when your thyroid goes wrong, it can affect you in lots and lots of different ways that could be really horrid.
So to raise awareness of that interesting fact, it’s a butterfly shaped gland. We’ve been running around this week on International Thyroid Awareness Week dressed up as butterflies. And that seems to be interesting ’cause we’ve got some media coverage. So that’s my interesting thing. I want everyone to remember it’s a butterfly shaped gland.
24 fingers: I didn’t know that. If you could have a 24-minute Skype chat with anybody, who would it be?
Lorraine: It would be with my mum, because she died when I was five. So to have a chat with her would just be amazing. So there’s nobody else in the running for that.
24 fingers: Would you mind taking a selfie for us? I’m gonna take a screenshot, so you just need to smile. So tell us what’s your favourite social media campaign or Twitter handle?
Lorraine: I would say Action for Happiness. I think it is brilliant, you get immediately what it’s about. It’s dynamic, it’s positive, they do so much. Yeah, I think that’s really important and would be a really good thing.
24 fingers: Especially on a local level as well, they’re great.
Lorraine: Absolutely. They’re very supportive of small-scale initiatives as well. Like I’ve spoken to the lady who set it up. We do stuff in my local area with mindfulness. She’s been really really supportive. She’s great.
24 fingers: Amazing. What’s one quote that defines your work ethic?
Lorraine: Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.
24 fingers: What’s been the best part day of your day? I know it’s early So you might not have it yet.
Lorraine: Obviously Emma talking to you But yesterday, I would say the best part of my day was the self care session that we did with Michelle, which was just beautiful.
24 fingers: That sounds amazing. Finally, anything to plug?
Lorraine: Well, it’s International Thyroid Awareness Week, this week until the 31st of May. And we would love people to get involved with that. Even if you’ve got a thyroid condition and maybe you’ve been feeling a bit isolated, know that you’re not alone with a thyroid condition. If you don’t have a thyroid condition, maybe ask friends and family and see if you find anyone, if you know anyone that does because it’s often not talked about. I think it would be really great if we could start some conversations.
If you’re interested in getting involved, in fundraising or in supporting us with a donation or doing something creative, helping to amplify our messages on social media, for example there’s lots and lots of ideas, ways you can get involved on the website. We’re always looking for volunteers as well.
24 fingers: Amazing. Oh, well done Lorraine.
Lorraine: Let me show you this. International Thyroid Wednesday. I said, I’m dressing as a butterfly. I’ve been in the paper, look.
24 fingers: Fame at last.
Lorraine: Exactly. So we want more people to do that. There’s three more days to be able to fly around, raise some money for The Thyroid Trust. You can save our future.
24 fingers: I love that.
Lorraine: I was doing that. Can you believe it? £1,000 just for being a fool. Everybody laughed. Running through Broadstairs on my own, in that get up, and people were just so enthusiastic. It was brilliant fun. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
24 fingers: Well done, Lorraine for everything that you’re doing. Thank you again for your time this morning, it’s been lovely to chat to you.