Work Experience At Clarion: Or, Why Admin’s Not That Bad

Beth Yarwood-Smith, Intern, Clarion Communications

Just recently, I entered the Clarion offices for two weeks’ work experience.  Five weeks earlier, I’d attended an interview - or, as it turned out, ‘just a meet-up to check you haven’t got three heads or something’. That test confidently passed, I waited for the lift and got a 10-second glimpse of my first PR agency and thought: that’s a lot of magazines.

It wasn’t much to go on when I was ushered into a spare chair and given the whistle-stop tour of computer-phone-scanner-dungeon(pardon?)-boardroom.  What to expect from a company whose tagline is ‘something new’?  I couldn’t quite reconcile the wide range of Clarion’s clients with the relatively small number of people in the office – and was quietly wondering why on earth you’d need a 60-minute track of animal noises when work started and my preconceptions started to look very naïve (turned out the animal noises were part of a campaign for Chessington World of Adventures).

What has surprised and intrigued me over the two weeks, and what I’d like to write about here, is the sheer amount of cumulative effort that it takes to pull off an apparently effortless PR campaign.  Some of you reading this blog will have been in the industry for years and know about the months of planning, but for the general public like me, PR is an internal trade that is barely noticed.  PR is the black t-shirted techie guy who switches on the microphone, but is forgotten when the headline act appears.  In that metaphor I’m the one who sneaked backstage and is tripping over wires, but my view, I hope, is pretty interesting.

As a student, my work at Clarion has been necessarily low key and mostly administrative, but I’ve realised that those small efforts are crucial to the overall effect.  For example, those magazines I mentioned above: I think I must have spent hours scanning about five percent of them (discovering where Have I Got News For You get their ‘guest publications’ from in the process), and it’s not thrilling work.  But it is gratifying when you realise that your scans go into the coverage book that is presented to clients to show how much work Clarion has done.  Good scans = happy client.

I’ve also wrapped parcels, cleared store rooms, found coverage, logged coverage and for one muggy morning run around London on the Tube trying to find an elusive back copy.  It’s a real shame that I can’t stay to see a project from start to finish – but it’s good to know that in a few months, the pictures I sourced and the websites I tracked down will have helped with a much bigger task.

In fact, I’ve been lucky enough to get a taste of that endpoint over the last couple of days.  Yesterday I got to do some sell-ins to radio stations; the months of brainstorms, planning and surveying behind the pitch made the job nerve-wracking, but all the more rewarding when we had positive feedback.  Today the campaign has generated national coverage in the papers and I’ve managed to get our guy onto a couple of radio shows.  It really is gratifying to see small jobs like scanning and spreadsheets turn into big achievements.

I’m sure that these kinds of successes are regular occurrences in the PR industry, but for me it’s still a novelty.  One day I hope to head up an agency like Clarion; I hope that I remember the small victories that, when you think about it, make the overall effect even more impressive.  For now, though, thank you Clarion for getting me started.

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