End of Programme (tenth Friday)

The Taylor Bennett Foundation, for me, has become a happy, energetic and hilarious family. The 6 trainees and I have spent 10 weeks together going on industry visits, doing tasks, preparing briefs, writing blogs (that none of us are really sure if people are reading!) and soaking up as much as we can about PR and comms.

Alongside the formal learning our soft skills like time management, teamwork, critical analysis, appropriate tone in writing, research, problem solving and maintaining a positive attitude have come on leaps and bounds throughout.

Much of our collective improvement has been due to the fantastic management and organisation of the rest of the team at TBF; Sarah Stimson, CEO of TBF - and of PR Careers fame, and Ada Nworgu, the Head of Programmes. But of course, at the end of the day, when you’re working and learning in such a small group as this (can you feel it getting cheesy!) a lot of your progression comes from the other members of the team. Each of the 6 trainees has taught me so much, and I feel like I’ve grown as a result (ok sooo cheesy, but it’s true).

It’s a real sadness that this rotation of the programme is coming to an end today, but it feels like the beginning of something, as well as the end – possibly a really cringe film about how 7 grads all get employed by the same large agency and live happily ever after… We’ll see!

If anyone has been reading this, other than my most loyal follower, Mum, then thank you!... S

Visit to ITN

Walking into the London office of ITV was a real eye opening experience for all of us. Multiple screens flickering everywhere, people talking and rushing from desk to desk made the office quite an assault on the senses. Robin Elias, Managing Director of ITV News, took the us on a tour of the offices and the green room, followed by short, sharp and informative talks from Nathalie, on the news team at ITV London, and Mary Nightingale, Presenter of the 18:30 news.

We obviously also saw some other things going on, but unfortunately, as we are soo important, these are utterly confidential.

Visit to RED Consultancy

A whirlwind morning at RED Consultancy saw us speaking to Dan Lambden, Creative Planner, about his daily routine and clients at RED, then doing a campaign plan with the group.  We focused on thinking about a large sponsoring client of theirs and the ways we could best, and most naturally, fit the campaign into multiple media streams. The team drafted 7 initial creative ideas, then Dan helped to hone and streamline these into an integrated campaign of 3.

Visit to Forster Communications

Forster Communications, from the outset, is an integrated and family style agency. We joined the staff for the end of their breakfast all together, and discussed headlines in that days’ news. From there we had an introductory talk from Peter Gilheany, PR Director, about the holistic approach of their business and it’s history.

Lowry Jonathan, Consultant, then joined the trainees and I, as she’s a similar age to us, to talk about journeys into PR and first jobs. After that a task was set where the we all had to think about the effects of ageing, as a large number of FC’s clients are older, or representing older people.

Finally, FC’s Carrie Greene, Senior Consultant, set the us a live brief centring around one of their retained clients, expanding from a previous campaign they’ve done. This was a new angle, and each of us really enjoyed growing a campaign from an already established starting point. These campaigns were then pitched to Carrie, Lowry and Gillian Daines, Innovation Director.

Visit to Cicero

Parisa Namazi, Head of Talent at Cicero Group, kindly organised a full insight into Cicero Group and their internal news agency, Novares. Jenny talked us through how the internal news system works, then was followed by short talks from John, Public Affairs team, and the newest member of their Digital team, Megan Harley, Digital Design Manager, who supplied the trainees with a ‘Cicero Cardboard’ each; built and designed to increase exposure for the digital team and produce some small competition for the Google Cardboard, which came out just before.

We were then given a task of putting together a campaign, which we had to pitch to a panel of Cicero’s directors and Executives made up of: Jeremy Swan, Chief Executive, Mark Twigg, Executive Director, Mike Robb, Executive Director & John Rowland, Executive Director.

Visit to Macquarie

Steve McCool, Corporate Communications Specialist, who has a long-standing relationship with the foundation, and knows a large number of the alumni personally, gave the trainees an introductory talk; this was great timing for us all to meet him. Our day there was then filled with focus groups, one-on-one chats and insight from a vide variety of comms staff, including Victoria, Media Relations, Robbie Sommerville, Associate Director in Corporate Communications and Investor Relations, Rachel Engel, Associate Director, Lindsey Roberts, Executive in Corporate Communications and Investor Relations - and self confessed ‘Brand Queen’ and Sally Gannon, Graduate Recruitment Executive, EMEA.

Over lunch the we got to have a short Q&A with Steve, then a more informal chat; such a fascinating morning for all.

Ninth Friday Update (only one more week..!)

Hi all (or none?), I’m excited to say that it’s now the ninth Friday of the first 2017 TBF Programme, but this also means there is only one week left - #sob

Joining the programme as 'the Intern' was an odd experience at first, as I sit between the trainees and the Head of Programmes in the hierarchy. There was a strange pull between trying to build a real friendship with everyone, and sometimes being in a position of authority. Now that the programme has progressed things are much easier and feel more natural; the trainees have their own sweet little family, and when we go on visits I feel like a schoolteacher herding her pupils on and off the tube, ha-ha!

What are we all going on to do when the programme comes to a close? We hope to all be quickly installed in exciting, fast paced and ever evolving PR/Comms roles in a variety of disciplines. Having visited a plethora of agencies and in-house teams of all shapes and sizes we are in a much better position to decide what we want and where we want to be. I am searching for a social media role with some client facing capacity (because I love people) in a young, open and friendly agency. Others on the programme, as this rotation is sponsored by FTI, are searching for more corporate, financial positions. So if you’re in PR/Comms and ‘have the power’ to do these things, please call/email the foundation and ask for the CVs of the latest bunch. They refuse to disappoint!... S

Marian Okogwu - Founder of Black Pepper PR

Young, ambitious and vivacious self-starter, Marian Okogwu, Founder and Director of Black Pepper PR, came to the TBF offices for a slightly more informal chat with myself and the trainees. She started by telling us about her journey through a law degree, to the world of various Condé Nast publications, followed by the start of her own PR agency specialising in consumer and lifestyle PR.

She is still in her twenties, but manages a growing brand and now employs 3 full time members of staff, along side temps and interns in busy periods.

It was great for all of us to speak to someone younger who had started their own successful agency, as we could see how she leans on mentors, and help and advice from others, and that it IS actually possible to go it alone!

Visit to Eulogy

The Eulogy team welcomed us with the youngest of the lot – a really enjoyable, encouraging window into the agency for a group of trainees of a similar age to these. Fran Monticelli, Account Assistant, Harry Gardiner, Senior Account Executive, and Hannah Lewis-Davies, Account Executive, were all brilliant. Each of them walked us through a typical day, from the main media they would be contacting to their clients and the channels they mainly target for each one.

We were then given a task to promote one of Eulogy’s clients around a national celebration day (sadly nothing can be revealed!), which was great. Everyone became really enthused and some brilliant campaign ideas were produced.

To wrap the afternoon up Managing Director, Elisabeth Field, came to give us some parting words of wisdom, and get to know the group a little better.

Visit to Nelson Bostock Unlimited (& Fever)

Tim Lines, Associate Director, organised a fantastic morning at Nelson Bostock Unlimited for the trainees and myself. We were met by several people from different areas of the agency, and their sister company, Fever. First Thom James, the new Head of Social at Fever, discussed the media landscape and some of Fever’s campaigns with the cohort. He instilled how important it is, in terms of Social Media in particular, to find the intersection of interests held by the consumers a brand is trying to reach and the values of that company. This is what sparks real, organic discussion and consumers buying into the story of a brand.

We then met Will Hart, the Managing Director of Nelson Bostock Unlimited. Will talked about the evolution of PR as a whole, as he has been in the industry the longest. His insights were focused on how video has become more crucial for brands, particularly tech, and the ultimate joining and merging of advertising, marketing and PR as one large snowball of exposure.

Charlotte Naish, HR Manager, Lucie Bickerdike, Senior Accout Director, and Sinead O’Connor, (YES, really Sinead O'Connor) Senior Account Director, gave a presentation on HR and positioning yourself for your first role in the perfect agency/in-house team for you. They gave us a lot to think about in terms of size of team, focus, values and level.

Visit to Dynamo PR

Dynamo was exactly as dynamic as the name suggests. The two who hosted us, Arun Lloyd, Senior Account Executive, and Izzy Hathaway, Media Relations Executive, were vibrant, fun and informative right the way through the talk. They kindly shared with us their journey into PR, and then described what their day-to-day activity is within the agency. We received tips like how to approach individual journalists, whether they are national, international, consumer, lifestyle etc.  and how to research that individual to make sure they are the perfect target for your story.

As a group we discussed the changing media landscape, and how it is increasingly important to spread coverage through traditional media and social. Arun and Izzy said that, especially within their specialisms of consumer and tech, bloggers and influencers are gradually taking the place of certain print and broadcast media in terms of reach and impact.

Article for PRCareers.co.uk


^ Above is my article, published on Monday 6th March 2017, and before I know it, me being just a little fish in a big pond, someone has referenced me in their article! 


This sounds childish and small, but it's a lovely thing to know that others are actually reading the things you write - so if you're out there, and have just checked in to my blog (wether you love, or hate it) thank you for reading me!... S

Visit to GOLIN

Golin hosted a fantastic afternoon with myself and the trainees, giving us real insight into a very different way of operating. Shamima Begum, Executive Director, and Fraser Sinclair, HR Director, sadly now moving on but handing over to Jane Fordham, Executive Director of Marketing & Talent, all gave concise and intriguing presentations about the ‘G4’ way of working, and about many campaigns that GOLIN has worked on in the past year. This included a history of GOLIN, starting with their first client, McDonald’s, 60 years ago (still on their books!).

Michaela Gray, Public Relations Account Manager, Media Trainer & Presentation Trainer, then walked us through the media, and how they are working on ‘riding the new change’ in the media landscape. Michaela also media trains the team and clients’ CEO’s etc. so talked a little about the difficulties and nuances of that.

Nitesh Khetani, Media Relations Manager, and Nishal Ratanji, Manager, from the Tech team then gave half the group a tech start-up task, and Emily Souders, PR Associate, and Sara Hailan, Associate, from Consumer gave the other half of the cohort a product launch to go through.

It is always great for us to see a different working environment, so Golin, with all it’s quirks and formats was a great experience for all.

Visit to Unity

Unity is the most decorated PR agency in the UK, so meeting Katreena Dare, Associate Director, and picking her brains on the industry and her activity was fantastic. We also met Priya Sund, Senior Account Executive, who talked them through several of Unity’s key campaigns. Priya set us all a task, centred on a genuine brief received by the agency before Christmas. After we had presented our ideas for the campaign we were critiqued by Priya and her colleague, Robyn Swan, Junior Manager. This was particularly helpful, and the process of presenting and being questioned made us consider the channels, interaction and media message in more depth. A real learning experience, thank you Unity.

Visit to ICG

Laura Kennedy, Account Director, and Rob Fuller, Senior Account Manager, were kind enough to give myself and the trainees a real insight into how ICG operate. They started by explaining the journey of ICG from Insight Public Affairs to where they are now, and told us a small amount about the move to Four Communications, who they have just been bought by. Although ICG specialise in Public Affairs and Health PR Laura and Rob gave us more of an understanding about the number of different services ICG offer (stakeholder identification, corporate reputation, crisis management, speech writing, perception audits etc. etc.)

We were then talked through some of the formulas and outcomes of their lobbying work e.g. the change in placement of the HS2 train that would have run straight through the Camden Town High Street.

Ben Wheatley, Account Director, gave some tips and advice around CV’s and the applications process, as he currently carries out the interviews for ICG.

 Finally, meeting Managing Director, John Lehal, summed up the morning nicely.

Sixth Friday Update (yes... already)

Ciao from Canary Wharf (as it’s so swanky up here). It’s the end of Week-6 of the programme and tiredness is starting to kick in from the mad dashes here there and everywhere.

So far we have visited/been spoken to by 13 various bodies (is that what you’d say?!) and each has been drastically different, but more importantly, all of them have been seriously interesting. Perhaps I’m biased; as this industry is how I think, what I do naturally, and is beautifully creative, so all in all it’s very me.

The sad and increasingly prominent thing about PR is that a pool of duplicate workers dominate the industry, and none of those are BAME, and as a result the workforce is not diverse and does not represent the population of ‘modern day’ Great Britain.

I do understand that this seems an unusual topic for me to harp on about in a blog, as I am white, British, and trying to become one of these practitioners, however it is becoming a more serious problem for agencies/employers as well. As the population (and as a result consumers and trades people – the readers and objects of PR) becomes more diverse, representation of these ethnicities in the PR industry is not keeping up.

If you are a PR person, at any level, reading this then PLEASE take a look at the Foundation’s website and do anything you can to help – you can mentor a budding PR, speak to future trainees at a workshop, host a visit at your office or just donate towards funding for another programme, and more trainees.

Ok, plug over, as you can tell I’m getting quite passionate about this.

But the training here really is intense, focused and all encompassing, so I feel that something has to be done to raise the profile of the foundation as a whole.

>>> www.taylorbennettfoundation.org <<<

If there is anyone out there reading this (other than my Mum…) please like the posts and follow me on Instagram (@sienaclarke) or Twitter (@realsienaclarke) for updates and pics from our visits... S

Visit to the Cabinet Office and Number 10 Downing Street

We had the incredible opportunity to meet various members of the Cabinet and Number 10 communications teams. Throughout the day we were met by speakers, given introductory talks, then had the chance to ask open questions about the assorted roles and the operations of the office in general.

The afternoon started with a general introduction to government and country-wide comms with Jessica Pearce, Head of Campaigns. She was then kind enough to take us on a tour around Number 10 (and introduce us to Larry, the cat). Next on the agenda was Michelle Couples, Professional Development Team, who gave the trainees welcome encouragement to keep their careers diverse and ever evolving. Ben Westlake, from the Digital Team, showed how the importance of checking and being consistent with the message, especially from such high exposure social media accounts, such as the PM’s personal twitter etc. is paramount. Siobhan Bruce, Press Team, followed to emphasise the effect of negative, positive, reactive and proactive stories within the print media.

To end the afternoon Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication, talked to us about the numerous graduate and entry level positions within the Cabinet comms team, and the political sector as a whole. Hopefully there will be some applications to his team!

Uchenna Izundu - Head of Commuications at OTIS

Uchenna is clearly a driven and inspiring woman; so in her talk we were met with a wealth of good advice. She began by telling us about her career journey, and then encouraged each of the group to individually articulate where we’d like to be in years to come. Uchenna’s presentation was a map of how to get us to our personal ‘finish line’ with various pearls of wisdom to urge us on the way.

By the end of the session each of the trainees, and myself, had come away with a particular piece of advice, tailored to our own goals, to action in the coming weeks.

Heather McGregor - Founder of TBF

Heather(AKA: Mrs Moneypenny)’s networking skills are legendary. That really should have a paragraph of it's own. If you don't know who she is and what she does, look her up!

It was really great for the trainees to meet her in a business context (I have met her before) and have a Masterclass at the Taylor Bennett main office. She shared nuggets of information like how to instantly engage with someone, how to properly research a business leader/potential client thoroughly before meeting them, and so on.

It was interesting to see how easily she commanded the room, without asking, and how she made connections with each of us individually. 

The session ended with a demonstration on each of our networks. Heather got all of us to write a list of the 20 people we communicate with each day, week, month and year, and then draw connection lines between the ones that knew each other. This exercise was to instil the importance of ‘weak connectors’, as they are the people you can help by introducing them to your connection, and will be the most helpful to you in terms of introductions.

Visit to Burston-Marsteller

I was bowled over by meeting the UK CEO of Burson-Marsteller, Amanda Pearce. She introduced the trainees and myself to the company and it’s international reputation in various areas of PR, then we had short talks with pairs from each discipline; Alan Aitken & Andrew Tickle from Public Affairs, Emrana Khatun & Maya Vega from Technology, Emma Purdey & Jack Dixey from Healthcare and Lauren Welford & Charlotte Offredi from Corporate and Crisis.

These little insights into certain disciplines or areas are so valuable to us, as it gives a real life insight into the company culture, and the day-to-day happenings in various jobs within Burson-Marsteller.