Michelle is the Campaign Support Intern at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Toronto. Michelle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This spring, I began my new role as a Campaign Support Intern at Grassroots and fully immersed myself in all things relating to public affairs. To my surprise, I quickly discovered how this fast-paced and ever-changing industry can be both exciting and unexpected. Here are three things I’ve learned about the industry so far in my internship:
1. Stay informed on current events
As a public relations student, I learned the value of staying up to date on current affairs. I was encouraged to monitor and analyze the news and apply my findings to my academic work. This skill has become invaluable to the work I now do in my internship.
Amidst this period of rapid change, we see government move fast and make changes even quicker. Our role as public affairs professionals is to stay informed on these changes. In a matter of days, a government decision could change the course of any issue and impact the progress of an advocacy project.
The effectiveness of my work depends on my ability to stay informed and identify potential issues. I always like to start my day by monitoring the media for news or government announcements that can directly or indirectly affect existing client advocacy projects.
While this process may appear overwhelming with the abundance of news and content on social media, I’ve found that targeted filters and alerts help me identify the most relevant information. It can also be exciting because no one day is the same, and there’s always something new to learn.
2. Build strong relationships with your team and clients
A concern I had before starting my internship was how to build strong relationships while working remotely, but from the moment I started my internship, the Grassroots team has always supported me. Whether it’s during a meeting or our end-of-week social, they always check in on each other. Despite working remotely, they have created a supportive virtual environment and offered me constant mentorship.
Building strong relationships also extends to client relations. Taking the time to learn about an organization, its story, issues affecting them, and, importantly, how the Grassroots team can help, serves as the foundation for success. From the start to the end of a project, developing trust and confidence with the client directly impacts the work we deliver. Getting this right requires checking in regularly with the client, asking questions, receiving feedback, and maintaining consistent communication to achieve effective results.
3. Recognize news issues and why they are important
As public affairs professionals, our role is to understand issues affecting our clients and to communicate their importance. Whether you’re approached by an organization with an issue or discover an issue yourself, this is the first step to any advocacy project.
Through my internship, I have gained a deeper awareness of issues impacting a wide range of industries. Many organizations affected by these issues can greatly benefit by getting their voices heard at all levels of government. Advocacy plays an important role in raising government awareness on these issues and it pushes for solution-oriented action.
Before jumping right into an advocacy plan, I learned that it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself: why this is an issue today? Why should the government listen? What are we asking government for, and will it improve the issue? It’s been a great experience to be a part of real change through meaningful advocacy and strategic government relations.
The transition from lectures to meetings and from textbooks to clients happened in the blink of an eye. Every opportunity I have had at Grassroots has continued to advance my learning and has given me a greater appreciation for the industry. There’s nothing quite like jumping into public affairs during a pandemic! I’m looking forward to continuing my career in the exciting and unexpected world of public affairs.