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My Public Affairs Internship

My Public Affairs Internship

By Michael Lach

My internship at The PHA Group started in October 2016, after recently completing my degree in International Relations and Politics from the University of East Anglia. I had always been interested in Politics as well as PR, and when I stumbled upon an online invite one day asking me to attend a ‘PHA Open Day for aspiring PR professionals’ I leapt at the opportunity.

The day encompassed of myself and a few dozen others coming to PHA to learn about all the teams and the work that they do. After hearing from Emily, who did an introduction to the Public Affairs team, I knew that this was definitely something I would be interested in pursuing.

michael lach

Fast forward to February and I’ve now been at PHA in the Public Affairs team for a little over 4 months. During this time I’ve worked on some truly big issues, from helping to safeguard the future of British Film, to helping millions of British overseas citizens. Plus, one of the best things about doing work experience with the PHA Public Affairs team is that unlike in other intern roles where basically your biggest responsibility is in charge of making tea or photocopying, at PHA you are truly part of the team and have responsibilities that matter.

In my first week, I was asked to help set up meetings between our clients and MP’s. It felt great that the company trusted me enough to give me such an important responsibility, which ultimately was crucial to our clients’ interests. My responsibilities have also included preparing briefs and reports for the team and our clients, as well as client events and attending high-profile meetings in Parliament with our clients and some of the UK’s top politicians.

Another thing I have enjoyed is that no day is ever the same! When you come into work in the morning, you could be working on a new client that’s just signed up, meeting with a client, or attending events!

As well as being able to work on cutting edge issues, you’ll also get to work in a great team who will be with you every step of the way and do all they can to bring you on board. Also, as everyone in the Public Affairs team has worked in frontline politics, there is no-one better to talk to if you want to discuss an issue or get an understanding of how politics really works.

As well as my time with the Public Affairs team, I have also had the opportunity to meet colleagues who work on some of the other great teams at PHA, as well as working with the tech team alongside my time in Public Affairs. I have also enjoyed hearing from some of the ex-journalists at PHA who really understand the industry and have some great stories to tell.

 

My week as a PHA intern

To gain a broader understanding of the world of public relations and fashion, I made the decision to embark on an internship at The PHA Group having heard lots of positive things about the agency. After spending a week with the Fashion & Lifestyle team, it is certainly safe to say I have achieved this and more!

On my first day at PHA, my mentor, Naomi, tasked me to help her to update a beauty and lifestyle client’s twitter account. With no prior experience of managing social media channels, this sounded like something I would be able to learn a lot from and I was extremely keen to help. Starting my week with this task was a brilliant way for me to see how varied the job of a PR executive can be.  Having the responsibility of creating tweets gave me a chance to see how fast-paced social media is and what is entailed in the upkeep of a channel such as Twitter.

Later on in the week, Suzanne, one of the account managers at PHA, allowed me to accompany her on a desk visit to meet a reporter at one of the national newspapers. This gave me the chance to observe her while she spoke about a product on behalf of a client and provided insight into how crucial maintaining strong relationships with the press is for a PR professional.

One task I particularly enjoyed during my internship was writing copy for a short press release, on behalf of one of the fashion brands represented by PHA. I am not a particularly confident writer, so this helped me to improve my skills in this area and it was very helpful to have some pointers from the team. I worked specifically on e-alerts which, I learnt, were a punchier alternative to press releases in terms of getting a message out to the press. I enjoyed the chance to be creative by picking suitable products from the range of clothes and accessories. I enjoyed the chance to use my knowledge of fashion trends and the challenge of having to think outside of my usual fashion choices.

Throughout my week as an intern with the Fashion and Lifestyle team, I have accomplished a variety of tasks and have been able to learn from the different responsibilities that are expected of a PR professional. Seeing how many different elements there are to being in public relations has surprised me and shown me how expansive the skillset you need to possess is. The staff at PHA are really nice to work with and It has been made clear that in order to succeed in this type of fast-paced environment you have to be determined, proactive and receptive.

My experience at PHA has allowed me to adapt my interpersonal skills as well as my ability to write press releases, use social media and liaise with journalists.

I am grateful for being given the opportunity to learn more about the industry and I feel the knowledge I have gained from PHA has driven me to seek out similar learning opportunities and will benefit me a great deal in my future career!

 

How an internship kickstarted my PR career

You devote three years of your life studying, partying and allegedly ‘finding yourself’ at university, spending a decent chunk of your parents’ hard-earned cash… but hurrah, you earn yourself a solid degree and the world is now your oyster, right? Wrong.

With greater competition for jobs than ever before, it will lead many of us to undergo internships. The very word has mixed connotations depending on your experiences; for some, it can bring back harrowing memories of receiving no pay and performing horrendous tasks, yet for others, it can be the gateway to a full-time job that they have always craved. I am fortunate enough to say that I am in the latter.

I began my PHA journey back at the end of February, lending an extra pair of hands for the UFC Fight Night in London. A baptism of fire, you may think, but one that I enjoyed immensely. My two weeks came to an end, I thought I had done everything asked of me with perhaps a dash of aplomb and received those dreaded words that have let me down before from companies and women alike; ‘I’ll be in touch’. Safe to say I wasn’t taking anything for granted. Low and behold, I received a phone call on the Monday afternoon asking me to come back, this time for a month’s paid internship. Happy days!

An internship gave me a way in to the world of PR.

This developed into a further three month’s paid internship, all the while being made to feel extremely welcome and a part of the PHA family. The culture and the people of the place meant that I quickly knew that a full-time job here was my aspiration and made sure I did everything in my power to make this happen. Graduates on internships are certainly a two-way street. There will be organisations out there that are merely looking for free labour but on the other side, candidates have to show competency and more importantly enthusiasm to convince that they could be a long-term fixture.

The Times’ this week in their University Guide highlighted the importance of internships and their ability to increase employability and they’d be right. All the way through your studies achieving good grades is constantly drummed into you as an absolute must, yet the minute you graduate, employers are hammering on about having suitable work experience. There doesn’t appear to be enough guidance at universities to help graduates overcome, what can be, a substantial bridge between education and employment. While it is extremely tempting to enjoy the rigours of Jeremy Kyle, Philip Schofield and co during the four months of summer you enjoy while at university, I would advise to make the most out of your time off in the form of internships.

I believe it speaks volumes for PHA when nearly half of the workforce began as interns, many of which are now in senior and management roles. It provides excellent motivation and inspiration that it could perhaps be me in that position someday and also gives those members in authority a sense of empathy, with the likes of myself, who are on the first rung of the ladder.

The journey from internship to a fully-fledged member of the team is not always an easy one but I must admit mine has been quite serene. Engaging with colleagues in more social settings has been crucial and has helped me feel truly part of a developing business. It may have taken me longer than I initially imagined finding suitable employment going via telesales and packaging women’s underwear, but in the danger of sounding hugely clichéd, it has been worth the wait!