PR Pro David Kane chats with us about how he made it in the industry
Role: European Managing Director, Public Relations Organisation: Inventiv Health Twitter: @dkane357 David Kane was featured in the 2015 PR Week Global Power Book. As part of our #PRProSeries, Amy Hayer, our Associate Director of Healthcare Communications, interviewed David to find out how he made it in the industry.
Why did you get into communications?
I work in healthcare and biotechnology for public relations, so it’s quite a specialised area. I was originally a scientist, but I have always had a strong passion for communication and love working in the business of enabling the success of, and access to, new technologies in healthcare. I think it was Cicero who said, “I’m sorry to write you such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write you a short one”. There’s a real art in taking complex scientific information and packaging it, without trivialising it or creating inconsistencies, in a way that will still provide a meaningful, comprehensible message for someone who doesn’t understand the technical side. In moving out of the laboratory, I was able to combine my scientific knowledge with an ability to communicate in the right way to build bridges to unite the different stakeholders pivotal to the success of a new product or development in healthcare.
What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career?
I have always been described as unrelentingly positive! My passion is to develop a strong vision, and gather people around me to charge them up with the excitement of working together to make that vision a reality.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?
I would say, professionally, striking the right balance between delivering quality and maintaining a strong and motivated team, and dealing with pricing pressures inherent in our industry. That is an ongoing challenge that we all face working in this business. It is probably the biggest challenge, because good quality communications require good quality people. It’s important to understand how to communicate those quality arguments to purchasers so that we can keep giving them our best work. Although, I have to say that I’m actually encouraged by how enlightened many procurement teams are, and how they do often factor quality into their pricing. Our work has won multiple awards, and we certainly have many procurement teams open to allow pricing based on the high quality they know they will get from an agency, which is correct, as one hour of one agency’s time is not necessarily the same value as another’s. There is always a place for quality agencies. If you do brilliant work, you’ll be recognised for it and procurement will take it into account.
Who would you say has been the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
I have met many great people working in this industry. I would say that the person who’s inspired me most is a brilliant East-Coast American oncologist who shall remain nameless. He is an expert in colorectal cancer, and gave an absolutely inspiring talk about the challenges a family member of his had suffered with cancer and how he reconciled that very personal journey with the objective, life-critical, clinical decisions he makes every day for the patients in his clinic. He captured the conflict beautifully. He gave a talk that made many people shed tears. It was beautiful, brilliant. On the industry side, there are too many to name. This industry attracts some truly great people, some of whom I am proud to have as mentors, and others of whom I have the honour to mentor.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Do what you love and everything else will fall into place. If you are in love with your work, that’s all you need to achieve success. The right people and things will be attracted to you.
In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry?
It may not exist anymore in its current form. I think the biggest change in the communications industry is the move towards integration. In healthcare, we look at terms such as medical communications, advertising and public relations. These essentially are silos that came from the consumer time when pharma started asking for outsourced communications services. There was public relations and advertising, and then medical communications grew up during that time as something that fell outside of those two buckets. But increasingly I am seeing and certainly advocating for the development and intelligent application of a strategy based on deep research and insight, backed up with experience. After that strategic platform is developed, then move on to actually developing a communications programme, which may well involve multiple channels, joined from a number of different areas. I think, in ten years, medical communications, advertising and PR agencies will be defunct and we will just have communications agencies.
There’s been a faltering shift in terms of integration. I think people have been trying to get there, and everyone sees the writing on the wall. They understand why it is important. I wouldn’t say it’s been a seismic shift in the last few years, but I think in the next ten years, we will get there quite quickly. Right now agencies are still fumbling around. We see PR agencies trying to do med comms and med comms agencies offering PR services, but they’re all a bit bolted on and do not seem integrated. Developing fully integrated approaches to communications is being done by relatively few individuals. Those people will be leaders in the coming years.
What would you say are the three words that best describe you as a communicator?
Direct, enthusiastic and honest are probably the three best words.
Apart from your current role, what would be your dream role within communications?
I’m very happy to work in this industry. I will say again that I’m a massive advocate for integrated communication. So, in the future, the dream would be helping to align an integrated approach to communicating with our clients.