@RebekahBillinsgley joins NoTurningBack2020 as a new Advisor. Rebekah is an expert in Digital Marketing transformation and has worked at The Times Online, The BBC, Elle and Red, Heat Magazine and Radio, Waitrose and John Lewis and more recently British Airways and Tesco.
In her words ‘I was the first ever non Oxbridge Graduate Trainee at Carlton Television: at Carlton – a traditionally working-class TV station. And I witnessed so much classism. It was awful at times to know you were not part of a predefined group. I am a disruptor as a result I think.’
Rebekah shares with us her reasons for becoming an NTB2020 Advisor and some advice for companies that really want to level the playing field and welcome more diversity in to their organisations.
How did you break into the Communications/marketing industry and why did you decide to follow this career path?
Growing up, I was such a show off. I was desperate to work in television, ideally in front of the screen. But you needed to know someone in TV to work in TV so I started off working for free in The Big Breakfast. Then I got onto Carlton TV’s Graduate Training Scheme where I worked alongside senior executives on business management. The internet was just starting to rumble and my commercial mind thought it was going to be interesting, so I jumped into newspapers online. I have always loved content, the power a story and context has to make someone feel and think and the endless opportunities that gives you with your customers. I think because I’m a disruptor, always looking for new opportunities for brands, I can spot the next place I need to be too.
Where have you worked?
I’ve had the best luck: Times Online, The BBC, Elle and Red, Heat Magazine and Radio, Waitrose and John Lewis and more recently British Airways and Tesco are all places I have worked. I ran my own business for a while too: hard and different but great.
What area of Marketing/Communications/Digital are you an expert in?
I’m a digital expert, particularly in digital transformation. That’s because I’m an opportunity seeker first and foremost, whether that’s opportunities for brands to extend their relationships with customers, new commercial opportunities for, new technical innovation, new channels or new permission areas. That’s always going to be in new technology and transformation. But content, digital, technology…
Describe a campaign you have worked on that has had a really meaningful long term impact and been a catalyst for behavioural change
One of the things I’ve worked on that made me feel really ahead of the curve was my time at Current Television where we redefined news for young people by young people. We created an amazing news product which allowed the unrepresented youth to dictate what they felt were news stories by voting content up and down a chart with a huge algorithm, at the top of each hour, we broadcast the top three stories in a news cast. This was all before the huge impact of Reddit, it was way ahead of its time. We also used Twitter hashtags on the live election debate between Obama and McCain which was still pretty new…we were so on it back then! But I still want someone to make this idea massive.
What do you see as being the main problems for the Marketing & Communications sector re lack of ethnic and lower socio-economic diversity?
There are so many problems with it. My concerns are more typically tied into the huge cultural implications of constantly showing aspirational lifestyles whilst actually offering zero social mobility. That’s going to explode at some point, maybe it already is. But greed, frustration and desperation are awful emotions to be helping to define and we need to look hard and at speed at what we are doing.
Why have you joined NoTurningBack2020 as an Advisor?
I can think of nothing worse than a feeling of hopelessness in terms of being able to have an ambition and work hard and actually have a chance at succeeding. It just shouldn’t be an issue, enough is enough. I was the first ever non Oxbridge Graduate Trainee at Carlton Television: at Carlton – a traditionally working-class TV station. And I witnessed so much classism. It was awful at times to know you were not part of a predefined group. I am a disruptor as a result I think. Bring it on!
What more do you think companies can do to overcome prejudice in the workplace?
Start by having conversations with your employees from ethnic and lower socio-economic backgrounds and find out how you are doing. Reverse mentor: business leaders need help and honesty to make changes. Make it safe to converse and learn. Stop running graduate schemes and open up lower entry roles. Pay for your interns and work experience. Partner with schools who represent those audiences and get them interested, fired up and ready to go. Create quotas and focus, you have to positively scale up your diversity, you have to go and look for applicants beyond your current system because that hasn’t been working.