An exciting outlook for Medical Communications globally

Thank you to the many who joined us for today’s #MedComms webinar. The recording is now freely available below – or you can catch up at NetworkPharma.tv or the MedComms YouTube channel, along with much, much more.. Enjoy!

The MedComms sector is thriving. If anything the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright spotlight on the need for accurate, timely scientific exchange and how MedComms specialists can play a pivotal role in facilitating that activity. In this webinar we are joined by representatives from McCann Health Medical Communications. Charlie Buckwell (Global President), Faye Daley (HR Coordinator and Lead for their Mental Health First Aiders programme), Folabomi (Bomi) Oladosu (Medical Writer and Member of their D&I Council) and Michael Stevinson (Global Head of Caudex) will reflect on the journey that MedComms has taken to where we are today and discuss current priorities and ponder future opportunities. And we answer questions from the audience.

 

A day in the life of a MedComms recruitment specialist

Recruitment specialist, Maz Reive from Media Contacts describes her day…

Now that we are back in the office, my day starts that little bit earlier, so I can have a coffee before cycling along the canal from East London into lovely Islington. Luckily, today there are no imminent client or candidate emergencies (issues with interview links seems to be the most common these days!), so we have a short team meeting to prioritise our open vacancies. This is not the easiest task in the world, given we have hundreds of live roles ranging from account executives right the way through to scientific directors.

I sit down for a quick breakfast while I check the news bulletins and make sure I’m up to date on industry news. As I’m finishing, a candidate calls in to get some advice on their interview the following morning. It is our job to know our clients inside out and be able to give insight and tips to our candidates during the interview process, as well as providing the all-important pre-interview pep talk (free of charge!). During the call, I’ve had a client request for an urgent freelance healthcare PR director. Once I’ve called to get a full brief it’s straight to the phones to start calling around our freelance network putting the word out and asking for recommendations and referrals.

Lunchtime already, and today I have lots of adverts to write for our new vacancies, so I work on that while having a quick sandwich. Next up, I start to put out some calls and approaches (this tends to be either sending emails or via LinkedIn) for an exciting Senior Account Manager role with a new client. As they will look at an experienced Account Manager looking for a step up and are flexible with remote and flexible working, it should be attractive to candidates meaning I can easily get some calls set up for the next day.

In the afternoon I have a call block starting with a few candidate briefings, where I find out more about their current situation, long-term career goals and whether they have any passions in terms of therapy areas. Current demand and the nature of the current hiring market in MedComms means it is unusual not to have several options for experienced candidates. Afterwards, I move onto some account management with our agency contacts, talking them through any candidates we are working with, how we are finding the market, whether they have any new vacancies and where their most pressing needs are.

At the end of the day as I’m finishing off my admin (database maintenance, emails and writing reports from client meetings) I get the call all recruiters want… an offer! It is the second offer for the candidate, an experienced senior medical writer, which is not unusual as they tend to be highly sought after. That’s probably the best end to a day you can get in recruitment! In normal times I’d probably be meeting the candidate for celebratory drinks after work, but as that’s not viable right now it’s back off to East London I go, to recharge ready for tomorrow.

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Peter and Ted’s grand adventure

Sarah Smith, once an ‘extreme’ freelance medical writer and now Principal Medical Writer with Caudex, has sent in the note below.

I should, perhaps, explain – Ted is Teddy who has been with me throughout the whole of the 10 year  #MedComms Day adventure. More recently we have aquired Ted the office puppy. Both will make their annual apearance before the day is out. Thanks Sarah, for your support over the years. Those sunsets were  really something!

The first MedComms Day in 2012 saw me contributing from the Canaries. I followed in subsequent years with posts from assorted islands in the Eastern Caribbean as we travelled as a family on our 43-foot sailing yacht (home-schooling as we went) and I continued to work as a freelance medical writer. My MedComms Day posts chronicled the evolution of internet services in unlikely places – just in case the intrepid roving medical writer needed to log on to check his or her email or send in the first draft of an Advisory Board report while exploring the River Gambia. I assumed the role of unofficial photographer, tasked with posting a fresh sunset photo from the Caribbean to punctuate the end of each MedComms Day.

In 2019 we changed tack (sailing pun intended), relocating back to the UK for a life of land-lubbing luxury (for that read flushing toilets, easy access to a washing machine and accessible healthcare – as well as fast, reliable internet). Given the emergence of COVID-19 and the cementing of Brexit since we came ‘home’, I am relieved to have got the itch to combine travel and work out of my system. Instead, I am now enjoying growing professionally in new directions as I venture back into the wider MedComms world with a ‘real job’ as Principal Medical Writer with Caudex. It’s good to be back in a big friendly work team and to be learning new skills. And I have a garden in which to get soil under my fingernails, and the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path to walk…

So, Peter (and Ted of course) – it’s been a grand adventure. Thanks for all of your hard work and lost sleep making MedComms Day happen for the past 10 years! It’s great to have been part of this annual snapshot of the MedComms world.

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Chatting with Godfrey Lisk

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Julia Walton at Media Contacts has chatted with Godfrey Lisk, Director – Scientific Services, Chameleon Communications International

What is your current job title and company?

Director – Scientific Services, Chameleon Communications International

What is the best part of your job, the bit you like the most?

Developing my team, working with scientific directors and individual writers and giving them the resources and training that they require to do their best work.

What is the one thing you wish you’d known when starting your MedComms career? 

Be prepared to deal with stress – it’s a stressful job! At the start, everyone was saying, ‘work hard and always hit deadlines,’ and that’s true but it’s also really important to be transparent here – things will get stressful. It is so important to have a means of coping with that stress, as it’s almost unavoidable to have competing deadlines so managing that is key to success.

What’s the funniest or most interesting experience you have faced?

I was part of a marketing meeting about promoting a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The marketing team came up with the slogan ‘everyone prefers oral’ – you can see why the whole room burst into laughter!

What’s the highlight of your career so far?

I’ve always wanted to be in the role that I am, and it was a hard slog to get here. Taking a moment to look back, I take lots of satisfaction in accomplishing that. The highlight of my career, and the most satisfying thing in the world, is seeing people I’ve previously line-managed now being directors in their own right, with their own teams and responsibilities. That legacy gives me a lot more joy than achieving my own dream.

Thanks for your time, Godfrey.

To find out how Julia could help you progress your MedComms career or help your recruitment process, get in touch with her – Julia.walton@media-contacts.co.uk.

Chatting with Catarina Samora

 

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Julia Walton at Media Contacts has chatted with Catarina Samora, Senior Medical Writer, BEYOND Communication

What is your current job title and company?

Senior Medical Writer, BEYOND Communication

What is the best part of your job, the bit you like the most?

The fact that there is no ‘typical day’. I love that we get to work in a such a variety of therapy areas, and projects, so each day poses new challenges and that is what makes this job so appealing. I also really value the team spirit at BEYOND, so even though everyone is committed to delivering their best work, our individual needs are always considered.

What is the one thing you wish you’d known when starting your MedComms career? 

Having transitioned from academia into medical writing, I was afraid that somehow, I would become disconnected from science. I soon realized that, albeit in a different capacity, I was still very much involved in data analysis and science in general, and I have really enjoyed exploring it from an industry perspective.

What’s the funniest or most interesting experience you have faced?

Meetings or calls where something unexpected happens and you are dying of laughter inside but have to remain serious and with a straight face. There has been a few of those!

What’s the highlight of your career so far?

Every time we receive great feedback on our work is a highlight to me. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when that happens, and it motivates me to keep evolving and delivering the best work I can do.

Thanks for your time, Catarina.

To find out how Julia could help you progress your MedComms career or help your recruitment process, get in touch with her – Julia.walton@media-contacts.co.uk.

Chatting with James Seed

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Julia Walton at Media Contacts has chatted with James Seed, Managing Director, Wave Healthcare Communications

What is your current job title and company?

Managing Director, Wave Healthcare Communications

What is the best part of your job, the bit you like the most?

We recently welcomed three new members of our board with a huge variety of experience in the MedComms industry. Running an agency we have built from scratch can be a somewhat insular experience and so the best part of my job now is working with our new leadership team with broader experience than my own to build a future for Wave in which our programme director and senior writers / editors play a much bigger role in operational leadership. We learnt through the lockdown months just how much people can achieve when they are truly given the responsibility and support to do so. Making Wave a company in which more of our team feels this freedom and responsibility, and has the support to realise it, is my main focus and key interest.

What is the one thing you wish you’d known when starting your MedComms career? 

How hard it would be to recruit really good people. We have our strongest team ever now, but it took an enormous amount of time and effort to find them.

What’s the funniest or most interesting experience you have faced?

Oh golly, there are so many! Turning up in Moscow to facilitate an advisory board that had been meticulously planned in English to find the advisors only spoke Russian was ‘interesting’, but a late night and an interpreter meant we had one of the most successful in the series.

What’s the highlight of your career so far?

The early days are obviously exciting, and then landing our first big account about 2 years in, but I think 2020, for all its challenges, was a huge highlight as it forced us to adapt really quickly and to ask so much more of our programme directors in leading us out of the threat we faced in March. This they did brilliantly, and the success of 2020 has been the inspiration behind the 5-year growth plan that now spearheads all that we do. Growth in the commercial is important, of course, but perhaps the key focus for our growth is centred around the people and creating sufficient truly senior roles to drive our ambitions.

Thanks for your time, James.

To find out how Julia could help you progress your MedComms career or help your recruitment process, get in touch with her – Julia.walton@media-contacts.co.uk.

Chatting with Gabriel Hoppen, Medical Writer, W2O Science

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Julia Walton at Media Contacts has chatted with Gabriel Hoppen, Medical Writer, W2O Science

What attracted you to this career in the first place?

I was looking for a scientific career outside the lab – I wanted to gain business awareness, and understand science closer to industry and healthcare.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The variety of therapy areas, pace of work and a little bit of unpredictability.

What’s the most challenging experience you have faced?

Tricky client deadlines – especially if they all stack up at once….Two ad boards and a series of training modules all due within a few weeks was fairly challenging, but situations like these are the best way to learn.

What’s the funniest memory and/or highlight of your career so far?

It’s a bit of a copout answer but in all honesty, day to day work at W2O Science answers both parts of the question. I’d especially like to use this opportunity to shout out my colleagues Rebecca and Kiran for being the funniest and providing daily hilarity.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Nicolas Cage – only he could do justice to the high-octane life of a medical writer.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

Check emails…prioritise tasks…often I like to work on one thing in the morning and something different in the afternoon, but other days when I’m in a different mood I like to do a solid 8hr single task. That’s a great part of medical writing, the opportunity for varied types of work.

 What would your key tasks in a typical day be?

Developing slides for different situations, events and audiences takes up most of my time, occasionally jumping on a client call to discuss all things content.

Thanks, Gabriel. Have a great #MedComms Day!

 

Chatting with Jo Lyford, Freelance Medical Writer

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Julia Walton at Media Contacts has chatted with Jo Lyford, Freelance Medical Writer

What attracted you to this career in the first place?

My job manages to unite my two passions: medicine and writing. After finishing my degree in Medical Science & Pharmacology, I got a job in biomedical publishing, followed by a move to a med comms agency. After a short time in-house I went freelance – and that was ~20 years ago. I feel very fortunate that I can make a living doing something that I enjoy so much.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love delivering a finished project – whether it’s a new detail aid, a slide kit, or reprint carrier – by the agreed deadline, feeling confident that I have met the brief and hopefully surpassed the client’s expectations in terms of quality and accuracy. When I receive feedback from the client confirming that – it’s ever better!

What is the most challenging experience you have faced?

The most challenging aspect of my work is finding creative ways of delivering the client’s key messages without compromising accuracy and while always ensuring compliance with local medico-legal regulations. Other challenges include: (i) working on several different products at the same time, each with their own specific requirements in terms of messaging, “tone and feel”, branding, referencing etc; (ii) dealing with clients who change their minds often or are unclear about what they want; and (iii) reconciling several sets of comments on a material, some of which may be contradictory or incorrect.

What’s the funniest memory and/or highlight of your career so far?

Earlier this year I spent several days filming inside a large pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, making a video to showcase the high quality of the product (an antibiotic). Seeing how a medicine is produced – from the raw materials to the finished tablets before being packaged and sent off for worldwide distribution – was absolutely fascinating.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

My daughter, as she looks like a miniature version of me.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

I have school-age children so I start early and finish early in order to collect them from school. I work from an office in my house. I start at 7am by checking my emails and prioritising my workload for the day. I am typically working on several materials at any one time, and they may all be at different stages – some will be new briefs, some will be in layout, and some may have come back from the client with comments. Most of my work has to be turned around quickly so I have to be efficient without sacrificing accuracy.

What would your key tasks in a typical day be?

Writing and revising copy for a multitude of materials, such as: detail aids; leavepieces; reprint carriers; videos; interactive screens; marketing emails; web pages or entire websites; web banners; brochures; conference booth panels. I may also have calls with the client and be involved in discussing strategies for future projects.

Thanks, Jo. Have a great #MedComms Day!

 

 

Chatting with Corinne Swainger, Freelance Copy Writer

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Julia Walton at Media Contacts has chatted with Corinne Swainger, Freelance Copy Writer…

What attracted you to this career in the first place?

Like many MedComms professionals, I fell into the industry by ‘accident’. I’m originally from Devon but spent my teens in Florida. In American high school, I worked on the student newspaper, where we also had to lay out the printed articles by hand. I also loved to sketch people in my spare time.

When I started university, advertising copywriting seemed like an ideal subject to combine my creative and communications skills.

So, I pursued a BA in Mass Communications at the University of South Florida. This involved studying traditional advertising, PR, journalism, photojournalism, and economics. At that point, I had little interest in medical science.

What was your first job in healthcare communications?

As part of my BA degree, I was lucky enough to get a Summer internship at the communications department of a private Florida hospital. That gave me the chance to learn how to sell clinical services to a wide range of healthcare consumers.

When I returned to the UK after university, recruiters automatically classified me as a ‘junior medical writer’, although I’d never heard of the role. I started working at a small ethical healthcare advertising agency in St. Albans, Herts.  The staff taught me the ABPI Code of Practice, and I got a chance to help launch the first UK prescription drug for HIV.

It wasn’t until several years later that I completed a BSc in Life Sciences at the Open University. By that time, I had worked as a senior medical writer, editorial manager and PR account manager.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

 After 14 years a freelance writer, (now trading as MediQuill Ltd), I still enjoy the flexibility of dealing with different healthcare projects, rather than a limited number. Plus, I love the freedom to set my own hours, and work-life balance.

 What is the most challenging experience you have faced?

 Shortly after I began freelancing, one of my biggest challenges was deciding to remain independent or not. One month I could be juggling five new clients, while the next, I was twiddling my thumbs. I eventually conquered this challenge by deciding to specialise in certain areas, rather than trying to take on every new brief.

 What’s the highlight of your career so far?

 Over the past 20 years, I’ve volunteered for the Tuberous Sclerosis Association (TSA) ─ a rare disease charity  ─  to publicise a national adult support group. I’m also a former trustee of the charity. Today, I’m still involved in the TSA’s Research Review Committee as a lay member, and I recently chaired its first virtual meeting on Zoom, during the COVID-19 crisis.

 Who would play you in the movie of your life?

 Renée Zellweger because she reflects the changing roles you need to adopt to succeed as an independent healthcare writer in MedComms.

 What would your key tasks in a typical day be?

 My main daily focus tends to be updating clients about the progress of their projects. Around 50% of my time is spent on researching background resource and developing ideas for new briefs before I put pen to paper. I’m a big fan of LinkedIn and try to dedicate some time to it on a regular basis. Overall, I’ve found it’s a valuable way to network with potential clients and other freelancers.

 Thanks, Corinne. Have a great #MedComms Day!