The New Establishment: Fostering inclusion at Telus

How this year's Brand winner Danica Nelson is driving results and diversity at the telco.

Danica Nelson_highres (1)

Danica Nelson is strategy’s 2019 New Establishment: Brand winner, a title given to junior and/or mid-level marketers who are driving innovative ideas within their organization. Check out previous recipients here.

This story originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of strategy.

Danica Nelson often quotes Drake’s hit song Started From The Bottom when talking about her career path. From selling phones at a Brampton, Ont., Telus store in 2008, to managing two of the company’s nation-wide portfolios in 2019, she certainly isn’t at the bottom anymore.

At just 28-years-old, Nelson is the senior marketing communications manager for Telus, working alongside a cross-functional team of six, as well as The Greenhouse, an integrated full-service agency co-created by The&Partnership and Cossette for Telus in 2017. Five years ago, she was an intern. Now, she manages as many as 20 integrated marketing campaigns at a time, as well as brand partnerships with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google, Air Canada, LoyaltyOne and Toronto Pearson Airport.

Nelson is the marketing communications lead on Telus’ Add-A-Line and Add Mobility portfolios, which are staples in its growth strategy. Her role is to encourage customers to go exclusive with Telus by adding phone lines and bundling their TV, internet, home phone and home security. Thanks to campaigns led by Nelson, conversions have increased 39% for Add-A-Line and 44% for Add Mobility, year-over-year.

Between 2014 and 2018, Nelson and her team worked with an external company that uses algorithms for creative testing. As a result, engagement on customer-facing communications (across the portfolios Nelson leads and particularly within email marketing) has improved by 53%. Because Nelson led the co-development of those advanced testing strategies, she also helped develop a learning library and, as part of a roadshow, presented the findings to different internal teams, which are now leveraging those learnings.

“There are learnings that we should absolutely be sharing with our broader team to ensure that we’re not only creating a consistent experience for our customers across mediums, but leveraging what we know, what we’ve tested, and what we have developed,” she says.

Nelson injects her passion for equity, diversity and inclusion into everything that she does, from co-hosting a podcast Damsel in the 6ix – which is about how to navigate career, financial freedom and dating as an empowered woman in Toronto – to her involvement in panel discussions including “Leadership and Diversity in Tech” at tech hub BrainStation.

She has also made significant contributions to Telus’ inclusion strategies as a member of its Diversity and Inclusion Council. Nelson’s goal is to create a company culture where “everyone feels they can bring their whole selves to work.” So she helped develop a curriculum on recognizing unconscious bias that can be used in training across the company – particularly for those in hiring or leadership positions. She also helped develop Telus’ Equity, Diversity, and Inclusiveness framework, as well as consulted for Telus’ employee resource group, Spectrum, to develop events that focus on fostering inclusive work cultures.

It’s a passion that stems from her experience as a Black woman in an industry where she often doesn’t see herself represented, says Nelson, adding that while most of the diversity and inclusion discussions that take place in companies focus on gender, “people who are closer to the intersections of marginalization still experience micro-aggressions that can negatively impact their level of confidence, give them feelings of imposter syndrome and overall just negatively impact their career.”

And it’s a reality that Nelson aims to combat from the inside. She accepts nearly every meeting request from those interested in learning how to thrive in the industry – especially people from the IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour) community – taking an average of 3-to-4 weekly meetings or calls. “I’m passionate about investing my time and energy into underrepresented people in marketing, advertising and communications, because I wasn’t immediately successful when I was trying to make my way into the industry. I believe it’s important for me to be the person I needed during that challenging time.”