BA (Hons) Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations 2010
When Lily Pebbles began her beauty and lifestyle blog while still a student at the University, she had no idea how many doors would open up for her. Now she runs her blog and YouTube channel full-time, attends regular press events, collaborates with brands such as Revlon, Bobbi Brown and Evian, and last year won In Style’s Project 13 Awards for Best Beauty Blogger. She has an impressive 477,000 subscribers on YouTube, receiving over a million views a month, and over 420,000 followers on Instagram.
Having struggled at school, she found she felt far more at home in the more egalitarian and independent atmosphere of the University, as well as benefiting from the opportunity to pick up first-hand expertise from lecturers who worked in the industry she hoped to enter. Lily launched her blog as part of the Digital Marketing module in her third year of her degree in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations, during which students are encouraged to develop their own blogs to gain experience. Since then, she has returned to the University as a guest speaker to encourage and inspire other marketing students
“It took me a while to find a course that felt relevant, one that would give me clear career goals once I’d finished, and in fact this was the only course and University that I applied for. I’d always been interested in advertising as my uncle worked for an agency and the idea of broadening my knowledge in marketing, specifically focusing on PR and Advertising, was really exciting. There was really no other course like it available! “I struggled in school so it was so nice for me to be in a teaching environment that felt level, where we could speak to the lecturers like they were friends and we all had mutual respect for each other. I also loved how real it was – our advertising lecturer worked part-time in an agency so the relevant knowledge he shared was so valuable. “Having working lecturers made all the difference when getting relevant practical advice but we also worked on a real client during our dissertation which made us so much more passionate about the project. I felt so inspired by the course that I spent most of my holiday time working in advertising, trying to build up my CV.
“At the time, this was the only university that allowed us to do a placement in the second year, which was very attractive to me as it allowed us to combine studying with gaining practical experience. The teaching there was great; I had Graham Wright in the first year who was amazing and Ewan Kirk for EU law, who I still speak with to this day. I went to New York on placement, where I worked for a criminal law firm and defended clients in a number of cases, including one of the defendants from the 2005 London bombings and murder trials. It was an amazing experience and it allowed me to see how what we learned in class was used in a workplace situation.
“I started my blog during the third year in a Digital Marketing module, but it was still just a hobby once I graduated so I spent nine months interning in London. I used this time to try out many different roles; I tried PR agencies, I worked in-house for Selfridges’ PR and I also worked in production as a runner on shoots. After a short spell in music licensing, I eventually found a role when browsing Twitter and started as an intern in a beauty box subscription company. My three-month internship turned into a full-time role and I spent a year and half there working my way up to Marketing Manager. I started my blog in January 2010 and my YouTube channel in January 2012, and in October 2012 I quit my job to work on it full-time.
“It was a very organic growth – I only had 30 people read my blog in its first year! At first it was just about finding my feet and getting into the swing of photo taking and writing but then I started to really work on engaging on my social media channels. The best way to reach people and tell them you exist is by utilising all people online and so I became very active on Twitter and Instagram. I stayed consistent with posting on my blog and YouTube so there was always new content to discover and I’d engage with other content creators online. It just takes time, but if you’re consistent and you’re creating content you genuinely enjoy then you’ll find others who’ll enjoy it too.
“Over the years my content has changed but it’s always just been an extension of my personality so as I grow and change, my content does too. These days it’s more ‘lifestyle’ and I do a lot of vlogs which can cover anything from beauty to home decor to food, or just general London life. I used to plan a few weeks ahead but now I try to be more spontaneous with my content so it doesn’t feel outdated.
“When I tell people I started my blog as part of my course they're always so surprised and ask what course I took. I think it's so great that we were asked to create a blog and be a part of something so exciting and up-and-coming. It was a class that could have easily been full of students secretly checking Facebook on the lab computers, but we were all so engaged and encouraged to use social media, that it really worked.
“Everything I learned about marketing both during my course and after when working definitely applies to what I do now. Essentially I still practice marketing every single day, but instead of doing it for another brand, I do it for my own. My marketing experience also comes in handy when I work with companies on sponsored work because I can understand from their point of view what they’re aiming to achieve and I can find a middle ground that works for us both. I really enjoy coming up with creative ways to make my content and trying new things to reach a new audience, like Facebook Live; I was one of the first in my community to try it when it launched which led to Mark Zuckerberg mentioning me in a keynote speech.
“So much changes in my industry that it’s hard to know what the future holds but I’m just going to keep focusing on making content I would like to watch, being honest and true, and being flexible with changes within the industry. I’ve really been enjoying exploring other platforms like podcasts; my friend Anna and I launched ‘At Home With…’ this year and it went straight to number 1 in the iTunes charts, so we’re excited to record a season 2.
“When I told my A Level drama teacher that I was thinking of applying to University she laughed at the idea, so getting into uni and getting a first was a huge life achievement for me. Being chosen as Alumni of the Year is completely insane; it doesn’t quite feel real. I feel really honoured and thankful; BCU has done so much for me. I started my blog at uni and I met my husband so I don’t even want to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t ignored my drama teacher and applied anyway!”