Marketing meets politics: A match made in London for intern
Brooke West sees a law degree in her future, and this summer the rising junior at Clemson University has discovered the path she’s taking through the College of Business makes perfect sense.
Brooke, a marketing major and political science minor, is interning in the United Kingdom as an aide to a member of Parliament. The experience has been eye opening on several fronts, including, to Brooke’s surprise, how a background in marketing figures into her daily responsibilities.
“Initially, I didn’t think marketing would play as much of a role in my work here, but it definitely has,” the Fredericksburg, Va., native said. “I’ve learned very quickly that public relations and messaging is central to my role as a communicator.”
Brooke has had plenty of opportunity to put her marketing knowledge into practice, working for Rupa Huq, a Labour Party member of Parliament. Brooke has had opportunities to write press releases, and regularly communicates with Ms. Ruq’s constituents via email.
Ms. Huq represents residents in Ealing and Acton, districts due west of London. She regularly has “surgeries” with her constituencies, which are face-to-face meetings with residents in her home districts.
“I traveled to one of the surgeries, which went very well. I was asked to write a press release, which was picked up by the local media,” Brooke said. “Making sure the release sent the right message was really important, as one word used incorrectly could be misconstrued and defeat the purpose of writing the release.”
Brooke’s marketing acumen has been put to the test in communicating directly with the legislator’s constituents, which number about 75,000. Ms. Huq either personally, or through her staff, responds to every email she receives.
“It’s amazing what is involved in these responses,” Brooke said. “For instance, a controversial plan to expand Heathrow Airport brought a lot of emails and personal letters. Ms. Huq voted against it. You have to do a lot of research on the project, her voting record and many other factors before responding to one of her constituents.”
Brooke said working in Westminster Palace, home of the United Kingdom’s Parliament, has been an education in itself. Verbal attacks among members of the House of Lords and House of Commons are legendary.
“I’ve sat in the gallery for sessions of Parliament and the debates can be quite intense, but there is a difference between the way barbs are delivered here versus in the U.S. Congress,” she said. “In Congress, rudeness is often very straightforward. But here, verbal attacks are delivered in a very traditional fashion. Uncivil things can be said about someone, but it is often preceded by addressing the person being attacked as ‘the honorable gentleman.’ ‘’
Brooke’s decision to intern in the U.K. is a result of research she did on her own, and counsel she received from the business school’s Student Enrichment office.
“The internship this summer aligns really well with my career goals. It’s good to be knowledgeable about global politics and I’m getting a heavy dose of that,” she said.
Beyond her duties serving a member of Parliament, Brooke is also researching what has been described as a local housing crisis for a thesis she is writing to receive college credits for the internship. Housing is at a premium in London and it’s been widely reported that landlords are taking advantage of renters by offering rooms in exchange for sex.
“It’s really a big problem here, and I’m very supportive of women’s rights and civil rights, so my paper will focus on that issue. Separately, I’m drafting a paper on this exploitation to Britain’s minister of housing and planning. A co-worker is going to carry this forward after I leave this summer. It’s a topic I am very passionate about and one I want to draw attention to.”
Brooke said her experience this summer has made her even more cognizant of how the world is divided, based on individuals’ political ideologies.
“The internship has taught me the importance of seeing both sides of an issue. In order to do that, listening is really important. I’ve also learned that in order to back up your point of view, it’s important to have done your homework and be informed on a topic. And, I’ve witnessed and learned that sometimes you have to adjust your point of view accordingly.”
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