Susan Fleet: How landing a job as a young PA led to a 40-year career in public relations

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Susan Fleet, founder and managing director of public relations firm Lea Graham Associates, based in Burgess Hill, talks about her career and how business has been affected by Covid-19...

How did you decide on this career?

I actually found PR quite by chance. In my late teens and early 20s I had a number of jobs but nothing especially interested me. However, when I found a job as PA to the chairman of a public relations company, I quickly knew that’s what I really wanted to do.

Fortunately my boss saw my potential as more than just his assistant. I enjoyed the writing and organisational aspects of the role and especially the face to face contact with clients and media.

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Susan Fleet, founder and managing director of Lea Graham Associates in Burgess HillSusan Fleet, founder and managing director of Lea Graham Associates in Burgess Hill
Susan Fleet, founder and managing director of Lea Graham Associates in Burgess Hill

I’ve now been in this industry 40 years and have witnessed huge changes, particularly technology and the lack of direct personal interaction with the media.

On the plus side, back in the 80s it could take a whole day to issue a press release – today it should only take minutes.

What has Lea Graham Associates been doing lately?

We’ve downsized, like numerous others. It’s been a very tough time for a lot of businesses and being unable to plan is especially hard.

My role as chairman of the Burgess Hill Business Parks Association has also taken quite a bit of my time. Together with our coordinator, we’ve been looking at our constitution and bringing it up to date.

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Sadly, networking organisations like the BHBPA and Gatwick Diamond Business Association have been unable to stage member events and although Zoom and Teams are really useful, nothing beats face to face contact with your local business community.

In my capacity as Dame Vera Lynn’s PA, I have been busy dealing with all the correspondence following her passing and I have regular contact with the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity in Cuckfield.

It’s been a very sad time but also uplifting to see how much she was loved the world over by people of all ages.

What gives you most job satisfaction?

I have always loved bringing people together. There is something immensely invigorating about connecting businesses and people – both professionally and personally – and seeing them thrive.

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PR is all about making connections, and I’m grateful to know so many lovely people who work in Mid Sussex and beyond.

I relish the diversity of our business and working in different sectors ensures new and often exciting challenges.

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