Northern Lights PR pioneers diversity internship in North – and calls on others for support

12 August 2011 By Northern Lights

Northern Lights PR pioneers diversity internship in North – and calls on others for support image

Leading Yorkshire PR agency Northern Lights has called on the communications industry in the North of England to work with them to address the lack of diversity in the communications profession.

Northern Lights ran the second year of its paid PR internship for BAME graduates this July 2011. The Harrogate consultancy’s intense three week training programme, which included master classes, real life client projects and networking sessions, is based on the flagship Taylor Bennett Foundation internship in London. It was delivered in partnership with client Bradford University School of Management with the help of Northern Lights’ PR and business contacts.

Victoria Tomlinson, chief executive of Northern Lights PR, said: “There is a lot of talk about the lack of diversity in communications, but very little action.  Taylor Bennett were the first to create an outstanding paid internship in London – and with their help we have run a smaller scale programme for the last two years. 

“We’ve had tremendous support from individuals in our region but there is only so much we can do. We now need a major partner to deliver the London model in the North – this could be a large employer with a strong communications team or a large PR or media company.”

Heather McGregor, who conceived and set up the Taylor Bennett Foundation’s internship, said: “Our ambition is to change the face of the communications industry, to make it a more representative and meritocratic profession.  We are proud that the work of the Foundation has been replicated by Northern Lights PR in the North of England.  In time, and with the support of our many partners, we hope to expand our programme across the country.”

Northern Lights won the Corporate Social Responsibility category at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Yorkshire & Lincolnshire Pride Awards for last year’s internship. All of those who completed last year’s internship went on to work in PR, communications, marketing and related roles, including Nafisa Shafiq, who has just landed a job in the digital team at Edelman, the world’s largest independent PR agency.

During a packed three weeks, this year’s four Northern Lights’ interns attended master classes led by industry experts on team building, social media campaign planning, business blogging, media relations, writing for different audiences, crisis communications, in-house PR, CV writing and interview skills.  Guest speakers included Claire Morley-Jones of HR180, Ian Briggs of, Justin McKeown of Mission Agency, Gary Taylor of Metro, Karyn Fleeting of Tinderbox, Anne Gregory of Leeds Metropolitan University, Charlotte Renwick of Bradford University and independent consultants Nigel Keenlyside and Jane Hustwit.

The interns also went behind the scenes at BBC Look North and Northern Ballet and were set real life project briefs by Bradford University School of Management on its undergraduate recruitment strategy, the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology on its involvement in the British Science Festival and UK General on farm diversification for the Rural Insurance arm of its business.

The four interns were pharmaceutical management student Farrah Khan, business management graduate Ahmed Riaz, communications officer Kulbir Sandhu and ICT with business graduate Naimah Sheik. They all now hope to go on to work in public relations or a related field. 

Commenting on the internship experience, Ahmed Riaz said: “I would never have considered a career in public relations and communications before the Northern Lights internship. Now I really understand its value to business, Government, organisations, communities and life. Being given the opportunity to meet and learn from so many successful people has been invaluable and I’ll use all the skills I’ve developed in whatever I decide to do.” 

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has a strategy that aims to tackle the lack of diversity in the profession by raising awareness of PR to people from different backgrounds and addressing recruitment methods.

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