How Rachel Aldighieri started her career as a trade journalist and is now MD at the Direct Marketing Association

Rachel Aldighieri started her career as a trade journalist and is now managing director of industry body the Direct Marketing Association. Here we grab a few minutes out of her busy day to ask a few questions about her career to date and the challenges of her present role – or rather roles – as she is also group marketing director.

What did you want to be when you were a teenager?

I wanted to be many things as a teenager – most of which weren’t that career orientated! But once I got my head down, I was pretty set on going into international law. All bar one of my uni applications was to study law and languages. I spent my summer holidays working as a barrister’s clerk and loved it. Then the reality of studying law for three years hit me and made a last minute change to pure languages which is the best decision I’ve made. It was probably the variety of literature, politics, linguistics, history, film, etc, that led me into comms as a career. I loved writing, researching and then got more of a taste for the marketing side heading up youth organisation AIESEC at uni – that got me into the likes of P&G and Ford for workshops and placements which opened my eyes to the more creative side of the corporate world. It was a placement with consultancy Ylva French working on Millennium Dome and Campaign for Museums account that really opened my eyes to the potential of a career in PR.

What made you choose a career in communications and how did you get your first break?

On graduating my number-one priority was finding a job that involved my biggest love – Italy. So a trade mag role which involved covering the Italian beauty and cosmetics industry was pretty appealing! It was the perfect first job – I got to hone my writing skills and spend my time at many a launch party in London and Italy. But sadly it wasn’t going to pay the London bills so jumped back to the other side and PR agency life. I did manage to keep up the Italian link though by setting up a satellite office in Milan. I worked on a massive variety of accounts – big and small, B2B and consumer. Within the B2B sector, I really enjoyed the media and marketing side of things working with media owners and agencies so when the opportunity with the DMA came up it felt like the right time to focus in on a single sector.

Why the DMA?

Why the DMA now? We’re at the centre of a really exciting, constantly changing industry. Data is now central to most marketing and our growing influence and membership reinforces that. I’m proud to work at an organisation that’s the driving force for doing things responsibly – yet also brilliantly. We champion creativity through initiatives such as the campaign for great British copywriting and the DMA awards and then how this all comes together to drive customer engagement.

I started out as the PR manager. While we’re a B2B organisation, the consequences of what our industry does (good or bad) affect the consumer. We also run the Telephone Preference Service and Mail Preference Service so whilst there was a big drive to promote our industry across the business and trade sectors, there was – and still is – a fair amount of high profile consumer media relations to deal with. Crisis comms became somewhat of a speciality and an area that we’ve received several awards for.

What are the particular challenges of your present role?

Time. I would certainly benefit from a few more hours in the day but wouldn’t we all! I’m currently wearing two hats – managing director of the DMA and group marketing director. Since the merger of the IDM and DMA, the key challenge lies in creating a single brand proposition for the merged companies. On the plus side, the nature of our industry means we’re surrounded by experts but therein presents the challenge… marketing to marketers.

What advice would you give anyone starting out in PR or marketing?

Listen. It’s an important part of communication. Be authentic, be honest and be nice.