Five Minutes with… Nicola Ibison
In the first of our “Five Minutes With…” interview series, we talk to Nicola Ibison, founder of Ibison Talent Group and manager of top media talent on-screen and media executive search off-screen.
Nicola reveals how, thanks to new digital technologies, the world of talent is evolving and new opportunities to work with celebrities and influencers are emerging.
Congratulations on Hairy Bikers Agony Uncles, tell us all about the podcast and how it came about?
Nicola Ibison: I’m excited by the emerging landscape of podcasts and they now feel highly relevant and – importantly – commercial, if you get them right. A couple of years ago I don’t think people had really worked out the revenue models but now the landscape is clearer and the money can be exciting and substantial. We have a number of clients with podcasts and we are definitely pushing into that space more for clients. The Hairy Bikers are national treasures and this feels a natural step for them. However, we didn’t want the focus to be just food, so our team got our heads together to come up with a broader concept which would lend itself to comedy. Our brilliant producer, Mark, came up with this neat idea and we immediately felt it was right. I like simplicity – people are impatient and want to know what to expect from the title. I think people also want to be entertained and to have a laugh, particularly if they are walking the dog or listening to podcasts if they can’t sleep or are travelling to and from work. This one ticks all the boxes – and it is growing rapidly, so I’m confident of its success.
How is this a part of Ibison Talent Group? When did you launch? What services do you provide?
NI: I’ve been managing on-screen talent for many years and I loved working with some of Britain’s best-known names, from our current clients, The Hairy Bikers, Kaye Adams and Jenni Falconer and Mark Dolan to exciting emerging talent such as Dr Karan Rajan, who’s build up a phenomenal 4.5 million followers on TikTok with his quirky medical videos. I’ve had the pleasure of looking after the likes of Clare Balding, Gabby Logan, Eamonn Holmes and many others over the years – all people who are fantastically talented and brilliant to work with. 6 years ago I set up a new business of two halves – management of top talent on-screen on one side and an executive search company to place leadership media roles off-screen, on the other. There is an immense synergy between the two parts of the company. By putting people into top roles in TV, we build up incredible relationships which can benefit our presenters. We are the only company in the UK to be doing this and it’s exciting.
How did you get into the industry and what would you recommend for people looking for a career in talent? What skills do you need to be successful?
NI: I started my career as a newspaper journalist and was fortunate to win a scholarship to the USA to do a Masters in Broadcast Journalism at Northwestern University. When I returned, I worked for Central TV and then moved to GMTV and ITN. Those years gave me a great grounding in journalism which stands me in good stead today as we recently did a successful executive search to appoint the new Editor of Channel 4 News and we’ve done a number of other searches in the news space. Knowledge of the USA has also helped and we are doing more and more global work such as a current search for Netflix and a recent one for Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s company, Hidden Light.
About 20 years ago, I founded my own company managing TV presenters and that took me in a different direction, though I’d gained experience of working with on-screen talent at ITN and GMTV (where I met Eamonn Holmes, whom I later managed). I built up the company and sold it a few years later and we were then bought again by James Grant Management (now YMU), one of the biggest agencies in the UK. There, I established and headed up the Factual, News and Sports divisions of the company. After 6 years, I decided to become independent again and I set up another company, this time combining executive search with talent management. Since then, we’ve been fortunate enough to have grown substantially, year on year. We are now a team of 12 and we’re still expanding. I work with a brilliant group of people and no two days are the same – we’re never bored!
My advice to people breaking into the media industry would be to persevere, research programmes you watch and who makes them and write personally to the heads of those companies and to their heads of HR. All these people and names are googleable now so don’t be lazy – track them down and write a good letter and say why you like their company and ask for a chance to meet them and explore opportunities there.
What have you noticed in the talent industry? What are the trends, opportunities and challenges of running your business at the moment?
NI: I’ve swung from working as an employee to building my own companies and I’ve loved the variety. I think the current media landscape is truly exciting and global, with more opportunities than ever before for talent both on-and off-screen. The market is particularly ‘hot’ for brilliant creative directors and executives in documentaries and natural history and premium scripted/drama series have also gone through a boom. For on-screen presenters it is so exciting that people can take control of their own destinies without relying on a narrow funnel of TV jobs. ‘Influencers’ can now command bigger audiences than prime-time TV shows and they can manage their own content and own their own IP. Not only is this exciting but it’s valuable. The world has changed massively and there are more opportunities and more money to be made from multiple revenue streams, for those who make a success of it.
Is there an insight that you would like to share with Brands and / or Agencies?
NI: Brands are already moving with the times and linking with talent in different ways and this is only going to grow. We’ve done some great talent and brand deals this past year and all those associations feel authentic and credible. People no longer sit and watch TV and wait for the ads, so brands have had to innovate and reach audiences in different ways, usually via social platforms and influencers. I think the creativity and storytelling coming from brands is extremely smart and I love the way they are being more narrative-driven – sometimes almost like mini tv-formats.
Q: How do you start your day?
I’ve become a real traditionalist. Radio 4, a cup of tea in bed and a scroll through emails before feeding the dog and cats and chasing my daughter to school. I then walk the dog, often before 8am, to start the zooms at 9.
Q: Favourite podcast
I’ve got to say The Hairy Bikers or Jenni Falconer’s ‘Runpod’ and we’ve got an exciting one launching soon by Kaye Adams. I also love Desert Island Discs.
Q: Favourite saying or joke
The joke is far too rude. The saying would be either nagging my daughter with all the tired old cliches our parents used before us (‘call that a skirt or a belt?’) or telling clients ‘you can do it!’ – and they can!
Q: I don’t leave home without …..?
Phone, keys and poo bags (for the dog – I’m not at that stage yet).
Thanks so much!!!
Find out more about Ibison Talent Group at https://ibisontalentgroup.com/.
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