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Happy holidays


The UK’s leading University Media Relations team are gearing up for summer

Somewhere in SW1…

McCall [on the phone]: That’s right, number 180. No not that one, higher… Higher still, keep walking. Yes, 180 is bigger than 170, keep going. Keep going… 180 good, now look at the list of names on the intercom… the metally, plasticky thing on the wall… You are looking for your one. Found it? Good, now press the button… No, the wall is not speaking to you, nor is it a little man in the box. Say who you are, and they’ll let you in… Ok, you’re in good luck [puts phone down]. Give me strength.

Janet: Is everything all right, Mr McCall?

McCall: I was just helping Gavin Williamson find his way to work on his first day as an educational consultant.

Janet: Has he stopped being an MP then?

McCall: No, of course not, what made you think that?

Janet: But isn’t representing constituents a full-time job?

McCall: My dear degree apprentice, you have much to learn. Gavin used to be a minister.

Janet: And now he is a backbench MP, so?

McCall: He used to have a minister’s salary and now he doesn’t, so he needs to make it up as a consultant.

Janet: But he doesn’t know anything.

McCall: He has the prime minister on speed dial, amongst others.

Janet: So, he’ll be lobbying the government on behalf of this company?

McCall: Certainly not, that would be most improper. Don’t ever call him a lobbyist.

Janet: Why else would you give Gavin Williamson a job?

McCall: He’s very highly thought-of in Somaliland.

Janet: Took me ages to organise that Gavin Williamson day. It was really difficult finding somewhere that would stay on the line long enough without laughing to get the posters printed.

McCall: Some of your finest work,Janet. I hope you used it as a case study in one of your assignments.

Janet: I did, I got a D. They said I had to research more credible examples of the intersection of politics and public relations.

McCall: Well, what do these academics know? They are all theory and PowerPoint. It’s here at the coalface of university media relations that you will learn how politics and PR really works.

Janet: Speaking of my course, Mr McCall, I was wondering if I could book some holidays. I haven’t been away anywhere since before the pandemic and…

McCall: Sorry, Janet. I think that’s Gavin Williamson calling again. He’s probably stuck in a lift or tripped over his lanyard or something. I’d better take it. Speak to Alexander when he comes in about holidays.

[Juniper enters carrying a fishing rod and snorkel]

Juniper: Morning all, what a lovely day for university media relations—transparent advertising, indeed! Shouldn’t laugh, really.

Janet: Mr Juniper, can I ask you about booking some holidays?

Juniper: No need Janet, thanks for offering, but I’ve booked it myself. Three weeks in Portofino in a villa, can’t wait.

Janet: No, I meant for me. See, I haven’t been away anywhere since before the pandemic and…

Juniper: What’s Oliver doing?

Janet: He’s pretending to speak to Gavin Williamson on the phone, so he doesn’t have to talk to me about holidays.

Juniper: Oliver?

McCall: Oh, he’s gone now, must have lost the signal. Maybe he fell down a manhole—so Gavin.

Juniper: What’s all this about holidays? I won’t have it, you know.

Janet: You agree I can book some time off?

Juniper: I didn’t say that. There is a process that must be followed. Forms that must be completed. We can’t have the office short-staffed at our busiest times.

Janet: August?

Juniper: We do some of our best work in August, who can forget the great A-level fiasco?

McCall: And the great A-level fiasco 2.

Juniper: Quite, so let there be no more silly talk of holidays, university media relations never lies on a sun lounger in Ibiza or wherever it is people go these days.

Janet: Portofino, apparently.

McCall: I seem to recall you co-ordinated the media response to the great A-level fiasco from a chateau in the Dordogne.

Juniper: Our brave foreign secretary led the retreat from Kabul from a swimming pool in Crete, I believe.

McCall: Quite, that’s why I have introduced a new HR protocol for the office.

Juniper: Have you?

Janet: Have you?

McCall: Yes, I have swept away antiquated forms and processes and digitised the holiday request experience.

Juniper: Really?

Janet: There are only three of us.

McCall: I have here a spreadsheet of holiday entitlement and approved requests, working on the guiding principle that a senior partner must be available at all times to respond to a crisis.

Juniper: Let’s see it then.

McCall: I’ll read it out for you, much simpler than all that emailing with links business.

Janet: I thought you said you didn’t know how to work Excel and I had to compile that list of England’s 100 lowest-quality courses for you.

McCall: That YouTube video you showed me was a game-changer.

Juniper: And?

McCall: According to our new digital system, Alexander will be on vacation from 18 July to 7 August, and I will be taking my well-earned annual leave from 8 to 31 August. So, we have cover for the whole of the summer.

Juniper: Sounds good. Does your spreadsheet do working from home?

McCall: Do you mean working from first home or second home?

Janet: What about me?

McCall: What do you mean?

Janet: Where am I on your spreadsheet?

McCall: As you know, Janet, the degree apprentice must be available at all times to support—and indeed, learn from—senior partners.

Janet: What? I’ve got to sit here and do your filing?

McCall: There is many a young person who would give their eye teeth for a summer internship with Britain’s finest university media relations team.

Juniper: Unpaid, of course.

Janet: I haven’t exactly seen people queueing up to work here lately. Not since you had those work experience kids come up with a list of “5 things I like about Michelle Donelan”. I’ve never seen anything like it. The paramedic said it was a hysterical reaction.

Juniper: Yes, thank you, Janet.

McCall: The minister has been very busy recently, how is the rebrand going?

Juniper: It’s a work in progress. I’ve been trying to move her on from “Tory surprised to be carrying a big red folder” to “Capable cabinet member ready for a bigger brief”. She seems to have got stuck somewhere weird in the middle.

Janet: That’s as maybe, I demand my rights.

McCall: What about your course, don’t you have to re-sit your Gavin Williamson assignment?

Janet: My modules finished in May. I’m not even supposed to be here.

Juniper: I do hope you are not on one of those dead-end university courses.

Janet: Literally, as the employer, you signed off the course content.

McCall: Value for money for the taxpayer, I’d say.

Janet: I’ve joined a union.

Juniper: Janet, how could you? Is it the NUS? UCU? Not the amalgamated public relations short-term contractors and hourly-paid social media influencers?

Janet: No, the RMT.

McCall: But Janet, we are a university media relations company, not a cross-channel ferry operator.

Janet: All the kids are doing it. We just love Mick.

Juniper: Mick Jagger?

McCall: I think she means Mick Lynch.

Juniper: He’s not here, is he? I think I’ve got an urgent appointment in Sheffield about an English degree.

Janet: I followed what you taught me, Mr Juniper, and I’ve used my networking skills to make contact with the highest levels of influence.

McCall: You know, Janet, I think we have been remiss in not allowing you more time to pursue independent study.

Juniper: Yes, why not take time off in August to prepare a study of market conditions, post-pandemic, amongst cultural producers in Ibiza.

Janet: I only want to go to a caravan in Norfolk with my mum and dad.

McCall: And so you should, at Juniper-McCall University Media Relations, we always say that family comes first.

Juniper: Well, profit comes first, but family is a close second.

Janet: Should I fill in the spreadsheet or something?

McCall: Hold on, it’s Gavin Williamson again, I think he’s got his tie stuck in the photocopier.

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