What excites you about joining Portland?
I’ve long admired Portland for the quality of its work for a such broad range of clients in the international development, sustainability and global health space. I’m also impressed by the calibre of staff which runs from diligent Execs to talented Consultants, to some of the most formidable names in media and politics at the Partner level and above. Recruiting based on merit and experience makes Portland stronger, which is better for our clients. We can tailor teams with the perfect mix of skills across our international offices for each project.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
A chief foreign correspondent at a broadsheet once told me budgets would fall out of newspapers as advertising went online, so if I wanted to report from overseas I should make it happen myself. I followed his advice and went freelance in East Africa working for the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian and Wall Street Journal. I then segued into communications for international aid organisations. Only later did I discover Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address about connecting the dots of your career. He said: “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” He was so right.
What is your favourite part of your role?
I love the wide range of clients I get to work with every day – from grassroots organisations delivering frontline healthcare in Africa, through to major multilaterals, philanthropists and companies – all united in improving global health outcomes. I also love the diversity of work – on any given day I can be building a budget, drafting a media line for a client or devising an exciting new creative campaign and testing it with stakeholders all over the world.
After a turbulent two years, what would you say are the key lessons we have learnt in global health communications?
The world has learnt that communications is a public health tool in itself. How we talk about science in adverts, posters and press conferences can be the difference between someone catching and spreading a virus and them staying safe. Beyond communications, it reminded us that all health systems around the world are connected. As Gordon Brown argued re vaccine equity, ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’. That’s why we’ll continue to see a trend in health system strengthening; improving countries’ resilience and ability to cope with future disease outbreaks – as well as long-standing threats like malaria and HIV. Different sectors all have a role to play in this and Portland can help bring them together.
What do you do to switch off from work?
When you work in communications, I’m not sure you ever ‘switch off’ because you’re probably a news junkie. I also have two young children so I don’t get much down time. Lockdowns were quite stressful and stifling so now things have opened up, my husband and I are enjoying taking them out at weekends to show them (and rediscover ourselves) some of London’s most interesting and historic sites.