With Love from London: The Life of an International Intern
Below is a guest blog post from a PRSSA member abroad. We are inviting all COM/PRSSA students who are currently abroad to write a post detailing their experiences to let all of us know what you’re up to, as well as giving information for the students yet to go abroad. We will try to have a guest blog post every week or so.
Our first guest blogger is COM senior Alison Morris who is currently interning at Fleishman-Hillard in London.
If you had asked me a month ago about the topic of this post, I would have guessed it would be about a massive work place culture shock, or an encounter with a bitter Fleet Street journalist, or maybe even an internship stalled at the dreary intersection of stirring sugar into tea and making photocopies. Thankfully neither you nor I have to endure eight paragraphs of sad unpaid intern droning.
I started at Fleishman-Hillard London about a week and a half ago. I work exclusively with the Corporate Communications and Issues Management team on a massively diverse client portfolio: everything from McCain Foods, an international potato product manufacturer, to Citadel Capital, an Egyptian private equity firm, to the Women’s Tennis Association. (Yes, Venus and Serena are technically our clients.) The London office is large: four floors in a swanky Covent Garden building. But my team is small, humble, and wonderful.
I wish there was some kind of concrete list I could write for you – something to outline and number and sort into Boston and London columns – not because that’s actually what I want, it would just be much easier to write. Despite all of BU’s cautionary tales and wise words of an “Adjustment Period,” I can’t honestly say that I’ve felt those negative connotations. The differences between London and Boston are in personality, humour and relationship.
Functionally, F-H London does pretty much exactly the same kind of work as F-H Boston, F-H Moscow, and F-H Mexico City. Our main objective is to connect our clients to their stakeholders, primarily though the media. We are reputation synthesizers, conversation facilitators, and crisis managers. The pitch letters I write here in London are technically identical to what I would write in New York, Milan, or Kuala Lumpur. (Except occasionally spelling words with an extra ‘u.’ Colour, neighbour, favourite…) I use Outlook, and Factiva, and get frustrated with my computer-that-is-not-as-awesome-as-my-Mac exactly like I do when interning stateside. The differences I’ve found in London are, essentially, intangible, so bear with me…
The work environment in London is like nothing I’ve ever come across in the States – which isn’t at all to say it doesn’t exist, it just seems to be hiding on the corporate identity endangered species list. In London, work isn’t just about biding your time and working for the weekends. (Yes, that is a Loverboy reference. If you don’t understand, please do yourself a service and Google immediately.) I’ve found that working in London is about office pranks and “I’m making tea would you like a cup?” and drinks when the day is done. Oh, and, of course, lots and lots of hard work.
Never before have I been in an office where one of the big wigs bought me an after work drink and then told me if I didn’t have a head ache in the morning, I wasn’t allowed in the building. (He was joking, mostly. Let it be said that I didn’t have a headache, and I was allowed in the office today.) But in all seriousness, socializing and chatting and joking around are an absolutely essential part of my job. Already, I feel so at home at my nice little desk in my very boisterous and hilarious office.
This environment, although seemingly enclosed within our four building walls and occasionally migrating to the terrace for a tea break when the weather is nice, travels with the Fleishman-Hillard London team wherever we go. Networking, media relations and new business outreach all function at least partially under the out-of-office-and-in-the-pub umbrella. Here, I find myself focused more than ever on relevance and relationship instead of punctuation and political correctness. Of course, I am careful to leave no ‘I’ un-dotted and no ‘T’ un-crossed, but these things are not the deal breakers in the London PR environment. Red flags? Maybe. Deal breakers? Usually not.
So, to be Career Center cliché, I’m using my Fleishman-Hillard internship for the Real Life Experience, to learn the things they cannot teach in the classroom: lessons of context and conversation. My time here is filled with little learning experience I’ll most certainly bring with me back to Boston because I have a feeling a little biting sarcasm in the workplace will take the edge off the biting January cold.
Alison Morris is a Boston University Senior majoring in Public Relations. She is spending the semester studying and interning in London. You can read her personal blog here: http://charcoalandribbon.blogspot.com. Find her tweets here: http://twitter.com/AlisonMorris. Or send her an email here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fleishman-Hillard, based in St. Louis, Missouri, has practice groups in more than 25 industry sectors. A part of Omnicom Group Inc., F-H is one of the world’s largest public relations agencies, with a global network of offices as well as offices in 22 cities in the United States. For more information, visit http://www.fleishman.com