Meet our Senior Account Director, Brands

To celebrate Pride Month, we took five minutes with Beth Begg – Senior Account Director, proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and representative on our Global D&I Council, to discuss what Pride means to her, the significance of feeling welcome at work and what brands need to think about when activating around awareness months.

Describe your career in 5 words.

Sales, Sport, Skiing, Travelling, Sport.

As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, I wonder if you could talk us through what Pride Month means to you.

It’s a chance to celebrate and be proud of who you are and it’s great to see that year on year it is becoming a more prominent moment. To see more people becoming aware of it and celebrating diversity gives hope for the future.

Individually, for me it’s about being proud of myself, my wife, and our family we have created and acknowledging that whilst I find myself surrounded by support from family, friends, and colleagues we’ve still got a long way to go to be fully accepted across society both here in the UK and around the world.

We listened to a fantastic and inspiring talk by Sasha Scott the other day, who revealed that people are up to 30% more productive when empowered to be their true selves at work. From your own experience, how much does that sentiment resonate and what do you think is the key to companies building an inclusive workplace?

Oh absolutely. I carried around a secret for a very long time, so I know what not being your true self feels like. You feel trapped and exhausted from trying to cover things up and you never quite tell the truth. It took me quite a while to feel totally comfortable to say ‘my wife’ in a business environment. I remember when I first joined CSM back in 2019, when it feels like the world was a very different place, and I recall a conversation with a male colleague where we were talking about football. I referenced something about Liverpool (who Laura supports), and they said ‘oh yeh does your boyfriend support them’ (which I still get a lot) and for a split second I nearly said ‘oh yeh he does’ until I got a hold of myself and corrected them!

For me, the key for companies is to set out their intention and be very clear about the type of place they want it to be. Do they all agree on the values and the principles they would like to achieve? Are they fostering that environment because they are employing people who buy into that forward thinking attitude? Can they move on from what was done before and think about things in new ways?  I’ve seen a real shift in CSM in that way and that’s huge kudos to Charlotte Macartney, our People & Talent team and the DEI Councils across the world who show great drive and real passion in wanting to make CSM a great inclusive place to work. It’s really refreshing to see.

You are a Senior Account Director here at CSM, with several years of experience in Communications. As we know, cultural moments like Pride Month can be fraught with difficulty for brands who try to activate around it. With your comms hat on, what is the key to brands getting their messaging right and not falling into the trap of rainbow washing? Are there any activations you think have been particularly strong?

In any communications work you want to strive for simplicity of message delivered with an authentic voice. Ultimately, do people understand what you are trying to say and get who you are? Everyone resonates more when a brand does that. Think of KFC chicken gate. Their response will forever be one of the best reactive communication crisis responses I have seen. Pure. Simple and honest.

My advice would always be to look internally within your business at what you are doing to create an inclusive & diverse workplace before you try to celebrate a cultural moment in public. Avoid doing something just because you should. Make it something that you commit to because it’s part of your business values and DNA, not because everyone else is doing it.

However, I do also understand that not all businesses are on the same trajectory and from my work on the D&I council, changing behavior, policies and attitudes takes a long time, but it’s about shifting inch by inch. So, whilst I could say it’s outrageous to wear or use the flag and not be authentic, my feeling is that by even taking these small steps we are making progress somewhere, we are giving greater visibility and we are placing this symbol into our everyday mainstream and giving it the equal exposure, it deserves.

In terms of activations, I always like seeing Skittles ‘There is only one rainbow’ campaign which sees them ditch their rainbow to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community for Pride Month. Colorless Skittles packs are then sold throughout the month of June in celebration of Pride Month.

There is also an out of home ad for Lloyds Bank advert on the tubes now where there are a series of photos of couples from the 1950s to the present day and the last photo is of a female couple and the strap line is ‘By your side for a forever changing Britain’. It’s great to see representation from such a large scale company.

When not at work, what would we find you doing?

Spending time with friends and family, attempting to shorten my park run time, tidying away toys, wiping Sophie’s nose, finding nice coffee shops, and drinking wine.