Lec­turer who is con­stantly fight­ing for the cause of the un­der­dog.

Robert Min­ton-Tay­lor won’t give up in his fight for a fairer so­ci­ety whether it’s to put an end to un­paid in­tern­ships or help Is­mail Mulla. wipe out racism. He spoke to

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FOCUS ON SMES -

I don’t like peo­ple us­ing their author­ity, who­ever they are, to get one over some­one else.

Of­ten Robert Min­ton-Tay­lor must feel like he’s swim­ming against the tide in his fight for a fairer so­ci­ety. How­ever, this for­mi­da­ble pub­lic re­la­tions lec­turer has made real head­way on is­sues such as un­paid in­tern­ships. Those two words ‘un­paid’ and ‘in­tern­ships’ in­voke a pas­sion­ate re­sponse from the Leeds Beck­ett Univer­sity lec­turer. The is­sue was brought to his at­ten­tion around a decade ago when he was en­cour­ag­ing his class of stu­dents to get as much in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble.

He said: “A group of stu­dents came back to me and said well thank you very much Robert, that’s very nice, but we can’t af­ford to do this.

“Do you re­alise, that to help fund our stud­ies, we’re work­ing? We’ve got a bar job in the evening, we’re work­ing some­times dur­ing the day for a store. We’re the peo­ple serv­ing you.

“I was naive be­cause I as­sumed that if they were work­ing in an agency or in-house for a day or a group of weeks, they’d get paid.”

This led to Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor tak­ing on the cause on be­half of stu­dents ev­ery­where. He started by chal­leng­ing the PR in­dus­try to start pay­ing in­terns. Along­side this he is also do­ing work for the Tay­lor Ben­nett Foun­da­tion, a char­ity that looks to help black, Asian and eth­nic mi­nor­ity peo­ple into the com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try.

But what is the rea­son for Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor’s pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cacy of the un­der­dog? If you look at his up­bring­ing it pro­vides a clue.

Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor said: “Even though I don’t have a York­shire ac­cent I was born in Don­caster. My fa­ther was in the army.

“He was a ca­reer of­fi­cer be­fore the out­break of the Sec­ond World War so he was at Dunkirk, he was in the Desert Rats. He even ended up lib­er­at­ing Ber­genBelsen con­cen­tra­tion camp. I only re­alised this af­ter he died.”

At the end of the war, while he was still only one month old, he and his mother re­lo­cated to Ber­lin, where his fa­ther was posted.

“I grew up in Ber­lin,” Mr Min­tonTay­lor says. “Ac­cord­ing to my mum I couldn’t speak a word of English un­til I was six. I could only speak Ger­man.”

This was then fol­lowed by a stint liv­ing in Sin­ga­pore, where his fa­ther was a “well re­spected” army of­fi­cer. Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor says: “Where we lived we had ser­vants, we had a cook, we had a driver and we had a house cleaner. It was an al­most colo­nial ex­is­tence.”

This was part of the rea­son for his pro­gres­sive out­look on life. In fact Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor was a Young Con­ser­va­tive once.

He says he got kicked out for invit­ing a black South African and white South African to share a plat­form dur­ing the apartheid era. “I was told that was not the done thing,” he says.

Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor added: “I’ve al­ways cham­pi­oned the un­der­priv­i­leged. I don’t like in­jus­tice. I don’t like peo­ple us­ing their author­ity, who­ever they are, to get one over some­one else. It re­ally bugs me. I don’t like that be­cause the un­der­priv­i­leged don’t have the com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools.”

Like many peo­ple in the PR in­dus­try his ca­reer ac­tu­ally be­gan as a jour­nal­ist. He started work­ing for a car­a­van mag­a­zine.

“I still have my party trick,” he laughs. “I can still tell what make a car­a­van is just by look­ing at the tail lights.”

Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor then de­cided to give the travel in­dus­try a go and at­tempted to do a HND in hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism at Bournemouth Tech Col­lege.

“I was not very suc­cess­ful at that,” he con­fesses, “I re­mem­ber my per­sonal tu­tor say­ing ‘you’ve got the gift of the gab. I sug­gest you ei­ther go back to jour­nal­ism or why don’t you try pub­lic re­la­tions?’”

So he joined what would later go on to be­come P&O Fer­ries. Here he spent six “ex­cit­ing” years but Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor han­kered proper PR train­ing.

He joined Amer­i­can PR agency Bur­son-Marsteller, which he says of­fered a “fan­tas­tic in-house train­ing pro­gramme”.

Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor added: “I think I was the old­est as­sis­tant ac­count ex­ec­u­tive they had ever hired. My bosses were at least six years my ju­nior.”

There he worked his way up to be­come a board di­rec­tor. It was dur­ing this time in the 80s that he saw racism first hand.

Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor said: “We were re­quired as board direc­tors to do pro-bono work and I chose to do pro-bono work for the Prince’s Trust.

“I was help­ing peo­ple from the Afro-Caribbean com­mu­nity in Brix­ton set up busi­nesses. I well re­mem­ber of­ten trav­el­ling in the pas­sen­ger seat of an ex­pen­sive BMW driv­ing through Brix­ton and be­ing stopped by po­lice. I wasn’t stopped. It was the driver, who was black, who was stopped and searched be­cause the po­lice at that time couldn’t be­lieve that the car hadn’t been stolen.”

In the early 90s, Mr Min­tonTay­lor de­cided it was time for his young fam­ily to re­lo­cate. Af­ter join­ing an agency in Leeds he started lec­tur­ing at Leeds Beck­ett. At first one day a week be­fore be­com­ing full-time.

He said: “I found that more stress­ful than com­bin­ing a full­time job and lec­tur­ing. I had a mini ner­vous break­down. But I re­mem­ber my cur­rent boss said you’ve just got to take a cou­ple of weeks off, sort your­self out and come back when you’re ready.

“That was just be­fore the start of a new aca­demic year and I’m for­ever grate­ful to him.”

See­ing stu­dents suc­ceed is the most re­ward­ing as­pect of the job, he says. Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor is also rev­el­ling in his role of link­ing the univer­sity to busi­ness.

The tide on un­paid in­tern­ships cer­tainly seems to be chang­ing. In no less part, as a re­sult of the lec­turer’s own ef­forts.

He helped Leeds Beck­ett Stu­dents’ Union start the Fair Deal for In­terns scheme. It awards a rat­ing of bronze, sil­ver or gold to would-be em­ploy­ers de­pend­ing on how they treat and pay their in­terns.

Re­cently, Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor was hon­oured by the Char­tered In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Re­la­tions (CIPR) for his work with the Tay­lor Ben­nett Foun­da­tion and on un­paid in­tern­ships.

De­spite the ac­co­lades, his en­thu­si­asm shows no signs of slow­ing.

“I’ve reached that age where I don’t want to do things for my­self,” he says. “I want to be able to con­trib­ute and put back into so­ci­ety what I’ve got out of it.”

And whether it is fairer pay or anti-racism, Mr Min­ton-Tay­lor is cer­tainly putting back into so­ci­ety.

PIC­TURE: GARY LONGBOTTOM

ROBERT MIN­TONTAY­LOR:‘I want to be able to con­trib­ute and put back into so­ci­ety what I’ve got out of it.’

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