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How the CEO of NABS Diana Tickell protects and cares for the creative industries

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Sure, advertising is exciting. The creative industries are home to millions of creative professionals all around the world, but all these pros need looking after to protect their wellbeing in the industry. That's where NABS and its CEO, Diana Tickell, come in.

The role of Diana as the leader of NABS is to improve the well-being of everyone in the advertising and media industry. Whether it be with masterclasses and talks, mentoring, coaching or even a confidential advice line, NABS' reach extends to the forefront of the creative industry and acts to support creatives all around the UK. And of course, much of that success is due precisely to the work of Diana.

After a year like no other, the role of organisations like NABS is now more important than ever. Today we are Getting to Know a strong and understanding CEO, learning more about her career, her personal background and how she is working relentlessly behind the scenes to improve the wellbeing of the entire creative industry.

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Tell us about your current role!

As the CEO of NABS I have the privilege of leading a talented team of colleagues and volunteers from adland to support the wellbeing of our industry’s talent and raise vital funds.  Every year, more and more people turn to us for help, whether that’s for emotional support, facing redundancy or financial hardship – now, more so than ever. We have a strong focus on career support as well as championing diversity initiatives such as timeTo and our ally partnerships with MEFA and Outvertising. 

How did you get to your current position? What was the biggest challenge?

A career with agencies, charities and client-side meant I had the experience NABS needed to take the next strategic shift. Not being afraid to tell some contacts that I was ready for a new challenge got me into the running. The biggest challenge was convincing NABS’ Trustees that my network was also strong enough to place NABS front and centre of the industry.

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

I had a really supportive home life that enabled and encouraged me to follow my interests as they developed. Some of my earliest memories outside of school are volunteering for charities and helping out at playschemes. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but that experience gave me lifelong confidence and a good knowledge of and interest in what charities do.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I started out in travel (marketing) and stepped sideways into agency life, working on charity clients, so I have a bit of blend to draw on. I love travel.  My last big volunteering trip was to help at a school in Sierra Leone so I’d try to keep combining charity and travel. 

What’s your secret to keeping the team inspired and motivated?

Right now it’s about managing pressure and actually stopping everyone taking on too much. We are incredibly busy and we are always very ambitious in what we can do.  I have to keep saying, look after yourselves first or we can’t look after the industry.

What is your biggest career-related win?

I’m incredibly proud of winning an IPA Grand Prix Effectiveness Award (with BBH of course) for one of Barnardo’s hard-hitting campaigns about child abuse and exploitation.

What is your one advice to aspiring creatives looking to be successful?

Look after your wellbeing in its widest definition. Great creativity needs us to be at our best. 

How do you recharge away from the office?

I plan and love big holidays so this year all that has been scuppered. So it’s my mountain bike (fair weather cyclist btw and a bit of track, nothing hardcore) and spending time with family. Durig Covid, anything that makes me feel normal, like coffee or lunch with friend or industry colleague.

How has COVID-19 affected you as a leader?

I’m calmer and have learned that you can’t plan for everything and that’s ok.

Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

BBH have always been an inspiration for me creatively. During my time at Barnardo’s, BBH gave me confidence as a client to be braver.

What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?

That we genuinely respect the importance of wellbeing to the success of the Industry. And that includes diversity. At NABS, we say that a key element of wellbeing is enjoying varied, positive relationships, creating a sense of learning, belonging, community, social acceptance and trust. We all now need to make that happen.

What is your biggest hope for 2021?

That we truly respect and embrace what we have learned about ways of working during the pandemic. For example, that when you have mutual trust, you can achieve beyond expectations. 

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

The NABS website! It offers a fantastic selection of supportive resources on a wide range of topics from videos on managing anxiety to our digital redundancy guide to help those facing job loss. I’m also currently glued to MEFA’s fortnightly webinars. They’re so insightful and essential watching as we continue to evolve NABS’ diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. We were privileged to collaborate on a webinar with MEFA recently, focusing on mental health in the workplace, which you can watch here.

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