A day in the life of lobbyist Michael Millar from London First
16th September 2015
Not-for-profit advocacy group London First is on a mission to make London the best place in the world to do business. Michael Millar, executive director, communications, describes one day of promoting our capital city.
7.00am(ish): If I’m not woken by my two little Bundles Of Joy leaping on me, then there’s a decent chance it’ll be some sleep-deprived broadcast journalist asking for a guest for his or her show. I have a lot of sympathy for these early reveilles as I used to be a business reporter at the BBC. I know the full horror of night shifts, particularly when one is tasked with finding folk to talk to at ungodly hours. I once got a Bishop out of his bath at 6.00am to go on the Today Programme. He was very Christian about the whole thing.
8.30am: London First, a business membership organisation, has the mission to make London the best place in the world to do business. There is no better reminder of just what a task we have than when you emerge from the Northern Line, having pulled your face out of someone's armpit. The city is growing by 100,000 people a year. If we're going to sustain this, we need more and better transport, homes, access to skills ... the list goes on.
9.00am: We have not one, but two coffee machines in the office. These poor workhorses have seen a lot of action in the last few months. We are at the height of activity in the political cycle. We've just had the General Election – and, against all expectations, a majority government (which sent a decent amount of pre-planning to the shredder). We will shortly have a comprehensive spending review – where a battle for limited government funds is hotting up; we face a London Mayoral Election next May, and to top it off, there's an EU Referendum on the horizon.
9.30am: A new government policy or official figures send us scurrying off to find our policy experts and demand they give us succinct, pithy quotes forthwith. To their credit, they are rather good at it. Alongside the considerable time we have invested in becoming a reliable source for our key news outlets, this means we get an enviable amount of media coverage. Having been a journalist for well over a decade, I have a very good idea of what hacks want and am deeply unforgiving of PR people who don’t understand what that is. This sentiment has not mellowed one jot since I came over to the Dark Side.
11.00am: Cup of coffee number two. The team meets to review a big event we've had this morning, involving business leaders, politicians, and national and trade journalists. Our events team is super human. With just a handful of them, they put on 200-or-so events a year. The downside is you have to keep up with them. Things to think about from the comms perspective: did the right members and journalists turn up and ask the right questions? Did we get good pictures, audio, or video from the event that we can slice and dice to circulate to members and on social media?
2.00pm: Coffee. Meeting with the team that is putting together one our major upcoming events. We have worked hard to embed comms from the start in almost every exercise the organisation undertakes, which means we ultimately get better, more accessible, and sellable products. In the case of our upcoming SkillsLondon event – the UK's biggest (and free) youth careers fare – we have collectively implemented a new digital strategy that will see a YouTube careers advice series, online polling, infographics, and targeted Twitter and Facebook advertising, among other things. I really love what digital has done for comms.
4.00pm: A generous team member brings me green tea because I have clearly drunk too much coffee. Time to make sure one of the many reports we put out – this time on solving London’s housing crisis – has been well laid out and edited. As comms has been involved from the start of the process and we’ve brought almost all production expertise in house (mostly by training up current staff), this is considerably easier than it once was.
6.00pm: Head home. Consider turning off my phone. Think better of it. Met at the door by the aforementioned Bundles Of Joy who end the day as we begun; by jumping all over me. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Michael Millar, is Executive director, communications, for advocacy group London First