Life on the outside

Post by Charlie Haddon

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Charlie Haddon apprentice at Office of Road and Rail

Charlie Haddon is an apprentice in the Internal Communication team at the Office of Rail and Road. A recent placement at London comms agency Portland was an exciting opportunity to explore new perspectives and methods.

We got in touch to find out more.  


I was lucky enough to be offered a two-week secondment at Portland, who are a communications agency based in London. They have many high profile clients, so it was a great place to get a feel for what life in an agency is really like, and it was an eye-opening and valuable experience.

On my first day I was given a piece of research to do that gave me the opportunity to work in a way entirely different to my usual working day. I was encouraged to approach situations from new angles and being taken out of my comfort zone like that was both stimulating and challenging.

There are things they need to be careful of when producing documents, one of which was writing in American English for some clients. This made me think about the needs of the stakeholder and how they adapt to meeting them. It is all about them being a good representative of a company and doing the job they are hired to do. Client satisfaction is absolutely paramount.

I spoke with different people across the organisation to learn about their roles, including what their role is. I managed to talk to their Head of Internal Communications and an Internal Communications Account Director. These were two of the most thought provoking conversations during the whole two weeks and really opened my eyes to the importance of internal communications in an agency.

Portland’s clients are external, but they support and advise on their internal communications! It was confusing at first, but then I started to realise the importance. This means that anything internal can become external. It could take one letter from the top and it could be leaked anywhere. The reputation of the company is always on the line which shows what a good job Portland do in controlling the risks.

I was asked to help out with parliamentary lists which was something I was used to doing at the Office of Rail and Road. I found this quite a rewarding task as they knew that I could contribute with my own knowledge. I had emphasised Public Affairs as something I enjoyed so I was glad to show my ability in thinking outside of the box and offering my thoughts on how to proceed.

I am really thankful to Portland for making the two weeks valuable and enjoyable. I was able to gain so much from the work they set me and also the people who took time out of their VERY hectic schedules to talk to me. It was beneficial to me in terms of the apprenticeship and my own personal development.

To top off a great 2 weeks there were Friday night drinks. This was something that I was not used to… being a keen civil servant! However, I saw it as networking and socialising and did my best!