Opening the door can have a huge impact

My dad died two years ago at the age of 65. He could be a difficult man and I often see some of his not so pleasant traits in me – pig headedness, competitiveness, and a need to be in control. But he could also be kind, generous, and mischievous.

He was wired that way for good reason. As a toddler he had polio (anti-vaxxers, stay away because I will not entertain your rubbish – a vaccine would have improved his life – and lengthened it – immeasurably). As a result, his right leg didn’t work, he wore a calliper and in the final years of his life was confined to a wheelchair permanently. He knew that the odds were stacked against him and when that happens being pig headed is an asset.

In the late 1950s children with physical disabilities were often sent to school with those who had a range of learning disabilities. As a result, all his school taught him was how to read and write, and how to use a knife and fork. He left without a single qualification, although he did go on to learn how to repair TVs and radios which he never really put to use.

When he met my mum, a student nurse, he worked in a metalwork factory where there was no such thing as health and safety and he often came home with bits of brass in his eyes. He earned a pittance and the boss got so fed up of him asking for a pay rise every month he gave him a shilling and told him not to darken his door and ask again for another year. My mum persuaded him to look for an office job in the mid 70’s (I was born in ’74) and he went to some recruitment agencies which eventually found him a desk clerk role at a company which dealt with imports and exports. He stayed at that firm for the rest of his working life. It was taken over twice, latterly by ANZ bank, and he finished his career there working in middle management in the IT department – having taught himself a bit about computers on our Vic 20 at home.

He also had several jobs outside of his regular role. He did mobile discos at weekends (there are photos of a baby me laid against speakers at parties!), he drove a mini cab at night, he did regular boot sales with dodgy stock that he’d procured from who knows where, and he did trips to Calais to buy booze and tobacco and then sold them on.

So he was quite entrepreneurial and not afraid of a risk, which I also get from him.

When Gillespies employed him they did so because they had a quota to fill. They had a policy (and I’m not sure if it was self imposed or a legal requirement, but I suspect it was the former) that they had to have a certain amount of disabled employees. Dad was bright, enthusiastic, keen to learn and was always the first in and the last out of the office. He was a good hire. They also made some concessions – he had a parking space allocated to him so he could drive to work as public transport was so unfriendly for the disabled in the 70s and 80s (and is not that much improved now!)

He openly acknowledged that getting that job was down to the quota. However, keeping it for nearly 40 years, being regularly promoted, and avoiding several rounds of redundancies was down to him.

Without that quota it is likely that he would’ve stayed working in a metalwork factory, or similar, for the rest of his life. He’d probably still have done a bit of wheeling and dealing on the side, but he would’ve had a much harder life. He may not have been able to get a mortgage and he almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to send me to university – I remain the first and only person in my family to have done that. The impact of that quota echos down the generations as without it I wouldn’t have had the education I have had, which led to work opportunities which would’ve been beyond my reach and, I suspect, my children and their children will continue to reap the benefit of dad’s change of employment circumstances.

Taylor Bennett Foundation AlumniPerhaps it was inevitable then that I ended up working for an organisation which is rooted not in quotas, but in positive action. Taylor Bennett Foundation aims to open access to the PR industry from those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds not because they aren’t perfectly capable of performing roles in communications – and excelling, but because sometimes it takes someone to open the door and let you in.

We conduct yearly impact measurement with the Foundation’s alumni and ask them where they’re working, what their title is, how much they earn, and how their experience with the Foundation has impacted on their lives. Some of those alumni have gone on to have children of their own and we will never really know what impact we’ve had on the lives of their next generation – but my own experience tells me that just opening that door can make a huge difference.


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6 ways to work with the Taylor Bennett Foundation

If you’re an employer in comms and PR, either agency side or in-house, it’s likely that diversity is up there on your corporate agenda.

I’ve written before on different initiatives which can help you tackle diversity issues in your organisation and thought now might be a good time to highlight all the ways you could get involved specifically with the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

The Taylor Bennett Foundation was established in 2007 to improve access to the PR industry for young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME). We do this through an award-winning ten week traineeship programme, mentoring, and summer internship placements. Over 150 PR employers support these programmes by donating, hosting visits, offering mentors, and offering work placements.

Sponsoring a programme
Each year we run a number of 10 week PR traineeship programmes for BAME graduates. 97% of our alumni are employed and over 60% work in communications. These programmes are a large commitment for the sponsors which previously include Brunswick, Finsbury, FTI Consulting, Talk PR, Edelman, MHP, The Red Consultancy, Charlotte Street Partners, and Standard Life Aberdeen.
If you would like to discuss sponsoring one of these programmes email

There are also a number of other ways to get involved:

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Women’s Suffrage and the movement’s influence on government policy

It’s the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave women over the age of 30, with certain property qualifications, the right to vote in national elections in the UK for the first time (UK Parliament, 2016). How much of that law was influenced by the Women’s Suffrage Movement is hotly debated among academics and historians.

The term ‘women’s suffrage’ is often incorrectly used to mean ‘Suffragette’ but in fact Suffragettes were the more militant wing of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) lead by Emmeline Pankhurst. Suffragists using more law-abiding methods under the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, did not describe themselves as Suffragettes and there is a question over whether the more famous, militant actions were as effective as the quieter lobbying by the NUWSS (Purvis, 2013).
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PR Interns Should Make Tea

tea cupOver the past couple of months I’ve been pulling together my annual ‘150 PR internships and graduate schemes‘ list.

Something was different this year. Several of the agencies specifically said about their internships that interns would not be expected to make tea, and one said interns aren’t sent to do the coffee run.

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Filed under Graduates, PR

Cry Me A River: What nearly drowning at a PR party has taught me

At the weekend I fell in the Thames. It wasn’t planned, and for the record, I was sober – I was on my way to a party, prosecco and flowers in hand.

I was incredibly lucky that I had four very strong men to fish me out of the incredibly cold water. Had I been alone, I could very easily have died. On average, one body a week is retrieved from the Thames. Continue reading


Filed under Personal, PR

10 Gifts for PR Practitioners

Black Friday is almost here so it must be Christmas shopping season. With impending festive shin-digs on the horizon, here’s my guide to ten gifts for the PR practitioner in your life. Secret Santa, we’ve got you covered.

1 ) Best. PR Intern. Ever. T-Shirt, £12.49 – £14.99
For the shining star in your comms team, this t-shirt comes in men’s, women’s and kid’s sizes and a choice of black, blue or red.


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Taylor Bennett Foundation appeals to PR community

TBF TraineesThe Taylor Bennett Foundation has been around since 2007, and is widely regarded as being at the forefront of taking action on the lack of ethnic diversity in the PR industry – in other words, we get results.

In the world of non-profits we’re considered a small charity, with an annual turnover of less than £300,000 a year. Much of our funding comes from our generous PR agency sponsors but that only covers about half the cost of running the organisation, our training and mentoring programmes, and supporting our alumni. We have to fundraise for the rest. To expand our programmes and increase the number of young people we help, we have to fundraise even more.

So when Stephen Waddington offered to brainstorm ideas for fundraising in his influencer session at #PRFest, my colleague Anne jumped at the chance to ask if the Foundation could be the focus of that work.

As you’d expect with a room full of creative comms people, lots of ideas came out of that session. Some we have used successfully in the past, some we have previously discarded as non runners, but one idea in particular struck us as something we’d not yet had a bash at and so, we’re giving it a go.

The Taylor Bennett Foundation 10th Anniversary Fundraising Appeal was born.

We’re aiming to raise £50,000 by the end of the year with our Just Giving campaign which will enable us to continue to run four training programmes next year, expand beyond London and launch a profile raising campaign in BAME communities to promote PR as a viable career choice.

Everyone I talk to about the Foundation tells me what great work we do, that the industry needs us, that the graduates need us and that we are making a difference not only to the diversity in communications, but importantly offering opportunities to young people who would otherwise not have access to PR as a career.

We have honed our programmes so that they get fantastic results. Over 70% of our alumni work in communications. Over 700 graduates have attended our assessment days and had detailed feedback to help with their job searches.

We have the skills, knowledge, passion and experience to deliver brilliant teaching, mentoring and work experience to BAME graduates, but none of it is possible without the funding.

So we are asking you, the PR industry, to demonstrate your commitment to improving diversity in the industry by digging deep and giving to our fundraising appeal. Your donation will make a real difference to a young person’s life.

Thank you.

You can donate to the Taylor Bennett 10th Anniversary Fundraising Appeal here.

This blog has also been published on #PRfest


Filed under Diversity, Graduates, PR