“Thank you so much for inviting me, it was a…” is a phrase no journalist finds easy finishing following a ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ (LFA) visit. The Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) has been running LFAs for the last seventeen years; I’ve been working with them for six months. In that time, I have spoken to hundreds of journalists around the UK, explaining the fantastic work HET do and inviting them to join us on our next visit. Last week, I was given the opportunity to accompany them.
‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ is a four part project devised for sixth form students. It involves an orientation seminar, a day visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a follow up seminar and next steps. HET run these visits on the premise that ‘hearing is not like seeing’ and that they allow students to learn about the Holocaust in a way they can’t in the classroom.
Working in the Not for Profit sector, it can be very easy to understand the relevance and importance of the work my clients engage in, simply through a phone call or seeing pictures from events. However, there’s little that can prepare you for an experience like visiting the Nazi concentration and death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. To see the faces of over two hundred young adults as they walk round and witness the remains of the atrocities that took place over seventy years ago, is moving to say the least. This, of course, is the exact image the broadcast journalists I was accompanying, were looking for. After all, a picture can say a thousand words.
Working in PR, you are often the middle man. Therefore, it will occasionally be necessary for clients to require your presence at events, to measure appropriate times for media activity and to be responsible for ensuring things run smoothly. Although, as I found through this visit, our presence is not just for the benefit of the client, but also to ours, as media advisers. Whilst my visit to Poland was a profoundly moving experience personally, it was also a huge learning curve professionally. It has helped me gain a valuable insight into the work of my client and to see first-hand the effect this has.
This visit not only added value on the day itself, but has had a huge impact on the way I engage with, pitch for and manage this client work on a day to day basis. Ultimately, it is important, wherever possible, to see your clients’ work first hand. Whether you work with restaurants, care homes, law firms or Holocaust Education organisations, dine there, visit their homes, sit in on lectures or, in my case, visit Auschwitz. It may seem an obvious one, but it is a lesson that I know I will take forward in my career.
I can now understand that pause at the end of the phone when speaking to journalists because there are no appropriate words to describe the experience of visiting Auschwitz. It suddenly seems sufficient to just say ‘Thank you’.
Sian Evans, Account Executive