Alumni profile: Rose Bentley

23rd January 2020

News, Alumni news

Rose Bentley, (English, 1979) is Director of Clients and Strategy at Propeller Group, a comms agency focused on PR, Content and business development

  • Rose Bentley

    Rose Bentley, reuniting with friends in the Kings Arms, speaking on Business Development and, inset, in first year at a Black Tie and Bad Taste party. 

Her career has spanned marcomms, PR, management, business development and coaching across Europe, the US, The Middle East and India.

As one of the first from her school to go to Oxford she knew it could be life-changing and she chose Wadham as she wanted a college which was in the vanguard of accepting women undergraduates. Her girls’ grammar, turned comprehensive, school in London, had a former pupil join Wadham in 1974 so Rose applied. “I wanted to be a journalist and had ambition to go to Oxford as I knew it would be a fantastic start in life. At the time Wadham was rooted in left wing politics and it was seen as the progressive, campaigner college – I think the current access programme is evidence that the same ethos still exists.”

Arriving at Oxford was initially daunting. “I was used to being the ‘clever’ one at school and arrived to suddenly find I was just one of many clever ones and everyone else seemed so much more politically aware, so I was a bit intimidated to start with. Ironically I talk a lot about Imposter Syndrome now, when I am coaching and mentoring, an issue than women often suffer more than men. The loudest voices are not the only voices worth listening to."

Rose’s tutors were Terry Eagleton and Alan Ward. After just four weeks at Oxford Rose turned up for a George Elliot tutorial with Terry at 10am in the morning to find him out. “He turned up twenty minutes late and we went into his room and after another twenty minutes sitting in silence with him puffing on his pipe and looking depressed he said, ‘Right, let’s go to the KA (King’s Arms)’. It turned out that he had been interviewed to join the Labour party that morning and had been turned down on the grounds that he was too radical.” A couple of days later Rose found a note from Terry in her pigeon hole apologising for the ‘non-tutorial’ and rescheduling.

Apart from the beauty and history of the College, what makes Wadham special for Rose is the enduring friendships that she made here. She remains close friends with about twenty people from her year and in 2019 they met in the Wadham Room of the KA to celebrate 40 years since matriculation. The same group celebrates their Gaudy this year.

“Terry told us that by coming to Oxford we were part of an elite - he wanted us to understand how privileged we were, not just in terms of the opportunities open to us but also in the relationships we made here. Our year group was completely co-educational and inclusive; whatever your background or education you could belong at Wadham – this was a powerful legacy. We shared a socialist with a small ‘s’ outlook on life and have a heightened social conscience.”

After completing her studies Rose became a freelance reporter for the City of London Recorder where she worked for two years before moving to a small PR company in Covent Garden. “This was an opportunity to help build businesses and use my writing skills.” She joined a larger PR agency in the mid-80s and worked her way up the ladder, buying it from the owner and then merging the expanding agency.

Seeking broader marketing experience she went on to join Wolff Olins in 2008, firstly as Head of Sales and Marketing and then as Global Head of Business Development and Global Head of Reputation. In 2017 she hired the PR agency Propeller, and liking what they did, she joined them as Director of Clients and Strategy in 2019.

Rose helps clients get on-point with their communications strategy and messaging, and provides strategic counsel, all with a deep understanding of what tech, creative and media agencies need to deliver.

“I get the biggest buzz from contributing to a business’s growth and their leaders’ fame in the market place. I work closely with client leadership and what they want to shift or change. I show them how they can build their networks and come up with creative ideas for growth – it’s great to feel valued for what you can bring.”

A crucial part of her role, and one which she enjoys enormously, is that of coach and mentor. “Helping teams to shine and develop is very important to me, building skills and helping people understand and nurture their networks.” Rose delivers an annual networking Masterclass to students in Brand Leadership at the University of East Anglia.

What advice does she have for current students hoping to break into marketing/PR?

“An Oxford education is great but it isn’t enough on its own. Stay open to what is going on in the world in all walks of life, from music to news and culture. You need to demonstrate that you don’t just exist in your own echo chamber. “

When job hunting she recommends you start with a spreadsheet, writing down the opportunities that interest you, the organisations you admire, who you know that could help and what you can bring to the organisation. Showing you understand their business and setting out what you can bring is the best way to lose your nerves at interview, she advises.

“Anyone thinking of marketing, business development or indeed any career, should not underestimate the power and influence of humour. When Alan Ward interviewed me for Wadham, he commented about how one of my essays - ‘The sun will rise tomorrow. Discuss’ - had made him laugh. I think that may have been a factor that helped me stand out. More recently, my CEO at Wolff Olins mentioned in a review that I quickly became a global leader because I was able to influence people and help change perspectives through humour. It’s a great asset in anyone’s career.”

“Make time for your passions outside of work” she counsels. “Your passions make you interesting and show your entrepreneurial spirit.”  For Rose, food is her passion, as demonstrated by her lively food blog http://the-coconut-asado.tumblr.com/ where she talks about food and shares recipes she discovers on her many travels. She was even a MasterChef Finalist in the Lloyd Grossman days!