I graduated with a degree in History last summer, and my Charityworks placement for 2018/19 is with the Media Team at Mind. It’s an exciting role and a great place to work – and after over 8 months in the job, I’ve just about got to grips with a ‘standard day’.
My alarm goes off at 6:35am, and I’m out the front door half an hour later to walk to the train station. I’m from the Midlands, and so to save on London rent prices, I rent with my Grandma in Hertfordshire. This has helped avoid the hassle of house-hunting in the capital, but it does mean I have a fairly long commute. It’s typically 1 hour and 45 mins door to door, and although I get a lot of sympathy I’ve learnt to enjoy it – I have been able to plough through my ‘to read’ list like never before!
I’m usually at National Mind’s head offices in Stratford for around quarter to 9 and start with making myself breakfast and beginning the morning’s admin tasks. I’m nearly always first in, so I’ll clear our newspaper stand of yesterday’s papers, and lay out the fresh daily papers that have been delivered on our ‘reactive’ desks. As a media assistant I work 3 days on the reactive desks, dealing with press enquiries and journalist requests as they come in, one day from home, and the other day in the office on other projects. On a typical reactive desk day I’ll sit down to compile the internal Daily News Bulletin. The bulletin is built on our media monitoring reports, which comes in every day with all the coverage – online, in print and broadcast – that Mind, Mind Cymru and local Minds have been mentioned in. This is usually a lot of coverage as Mind’s reputation has grown so much in the past few years! From that coverage I’ll pick out the ‘top news’, so big publications like the Guardian, BBC or the Mirror that we’ve been featured in and the team has worked on, and then do a mini-write up of these for the bulletin. I’ll also look up and do a quick summary of any big mental health news stories of the day; the rest of the team will feed into this when they get in and have a look through the papers on the desks.
At 10:15 when everyone is in we have our daily ‘news huddle’ meeting, with representatives from the Digital and Policy and Campaigns (P&C) teams. P&C may make us aware of a new political development relevant to Mind, related to the Mental Health Act Review for instance, or Universal Credit – a big campaign area for us at the minute. Digital will let us know what is planned for the day on our social media, and the Media team will relate the news stories that we’ve come across or requests we’ve received from journalists. It’s only a very short meeting sometimes, but it’s a good way to keep all the relevant teams in the loop, particularly if there’s a major story breaking.
After the meeting I’m usually ready to send out the news bulletin, and then might offer to do a tea/coffee round for the team. We have two big kitchens at Mind – the main one is called ‘Fry’s’ after Mind’s president Stephen Fry; the secondary, slightly smaller one is called ‘Skinny Fry’s’, which I’ve always enjoyed! Hot drinks made, if I’m on reactive it’s time to knuckle down to the press inbox and answering the press phone. The inbox is a busy place; we receive requests on everything you could think of. Small publications or online blogs wanting a comment on all manner of mental health issues, students wanting help with assignments (which I’m afraid they won’t receive!), or major publications such as the Guardian or ITV News wanting to speak to a spokesperson or requesting a case study. On the inbox I will either respond to these inquiries directly, forward them on to a colleague, or signpost them to another team or more appropriate charity.
I may also pick things up myself. For example, if a Telegraph journalist wants a brief comment on postnatal depression, this is something I can draft guided by our information and previous comments. Then I can send it to the Information team (it will go out in their name) and a Senior Media Officer to look over and approve. It felt a bit odd the first time I saw a comment I had written quoted as someone else in the press, but it’s just part of the media process, and saves the important people a lot of time! Drafting comments is something I’ve enjoyed learning how to do, looking at our latest information, previous statements on the topic and brand guidelines to ensure what I’m saying fits with Mind’s image.
Mind operates on flexi hours, so as long as you are working within the ‘core four’ (10-12am and 2-4pm) it’s up to you and your manager what hours you work. Which means you can take a two hour lunch break if you’d like to! Normally I just stick to half an hour, but I like to get out of the office. Stratford is home to two major landmarks; Olympic Park and the enormous Westfield. While the shopping centre is handy for odd-jobs during lunch and after work, Olympic Park is a much nicer place to spend a lunch break! I tend to Whatsapp some of my fellow Charityworks graduates who work in other departments, and we’ll go together to eat our falafel wraps under the ArcelorMittal Orbit if it’s nice weather.
Back at my desk after lunch the inbox will have invariably blown up again – there’s never really a truly quiet day, and the inbox is never empty! If I get a moment I’ll get on with some other work. Part of my role is working with our media volunteers, or case studies – the general members of the public who work with us to share their mental health experience. If someone has got in touch to say they’d like to share their experience and it’s a relevant one to our campaign focuses, I might call them up for a conversation about their story. This is usually a pretty long chat, up to an hour, as we go over everything to do with their mental health; their history, diagnoses, treatments, and experiences of primary and secondary healthcare. Although these can be quite upsetting and intense conversations, I really enjoy speaking to people – it reminds me of who Mind is representing and what our work is for. It’s also something I feel comfortable doing, having been involved with my student Nightline while at university.
With interview notes to hand I’ll do a write up of our conversation, and then email it back to the volunteer to check they’re happy with everything. If they are, the next job is adding it to our CRM (or Customer Relationship Management database) and creating their contact profile. There’s more IT skills involved than I imagined in the non-profit sector! Learning how to use a Microsoft 365 database has been a big part of my role, and I’m invariably helping team members with it as well.
As I get in early my working day usually finishes around 4:30pm. I might hang around at work to go to a Mind-run pilates or Boxercise class – part of HR’s staff wellbeing initiatives – but normally I’ll set off on the long trip home. This is relatively a typical day, but I’ve had a fair amount of variation too – working on secondment at a local Mind and helping out plan and prepare for our annual Mind Media Awards.
By Tessa Boyd, CW18 Trainee at Mind