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How I made it: Julia Bainbridge of freuds

How I made it featuring Julia Bainbridge at freuds

Hanson Search steps inside the world of freuds to interview Julia Bainbridge, Partner and Head of Health and Behaviour Change, for our inspiring career series.

Julia shares her advice for making it in the PR industry, the coming challenges, and the value of mentors.

How did you get into the communications industry?

I’m probably quite rare in that I knew I wanted to get into PR even before I did my A-Levels. I did a career test at school and it suggested I be a public relations officer or a barrister and on the basis of that, I went on to study Public Relations. In my placement year at university, I fell into the health department at Ruder Finn, which is why I then carried that on after university. 

Do you have a mentor who has inspired you to succeed?

I’ve had lots of mentors over the years, but I think Paul Gittins from Red Health, who works on different projects now, is someone who I’ve stayed close to all the way through from the Ruder Finn days through to Red Health. He continues to be one of my best friends. Also, Rebecca Ferguson who is now a Managing Director at Red Health.

Leading the team I do now, Paul Melody who was Chief Strategy and Creative Officer at freuds for a long time plays an important mentor role for me. I think mentors are an incredibly valuable thing to have throughout your career.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?

When I was an Account Director and a client asked specifically for me to come off their business account. As an ambitious Account Director and being only 26, that was a really hard thing to take and it was quite hurtful at the time.

Looking back and having had sensible advice on the issue, I realise this was because I was strong-willed and they wanted somebody who would always say yes rather than somebody who provided a bit of a different view - and potentially hard-nosed counsel. I had to take that experience and learn a lot from it. You have to understand that sometimes personalities don’t fit and that you shouldn’t take it too personally.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Know that you can’t do it all. Learn to build teams of people around you and learn which skills and personality traits in others can together make you a stronger collective. Be more resilient. And try not to be perfect! That’s quite a lot of advice!

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started your career?

What’s been great for me, particularly at freuds, has been how we now address campaign challenges that are channel-neutral or marketing channel-agnostic, so we can start to eat into the budgets and roles of other marketing practices. That may be above-the-line advertising, media planning. 

Beyond PR specifically, there are the changes in healthcare and exciting and emerging scientific developments which have changed the course of how communicators now work in an ever-evolving space. Also, how healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are revisiting and prioritising communications, redistributing focus from highly regulated brand communications into more corporate communications. I think we’ll start to see a real pattern of that more and more over the next few years.

What do you think it takes to be successful in 2019?

Flexibility and tenacity are two qualities that I look for in other people when I’m hiring. There’s sometimes an inclination for people to try to stick within their comfort-zone but given how everything is always changing at such pace I think the ‘I can give this a go’ attitude is a much more likely to be a successful trait than reticence. 

What are the top 3 things which business should do to improve diversity in the workplace?

Generally speaking, you need a culture of inclusion. At freuds, we have launched the Culture Club which celebrates different nationalities and cultural areas of importance, and we allow that to be run by our diversity committee. It’s a really nice initiative which is fun and engaging. 

Secondly, we want to partner with organisations that prioritise diversity in the workplace – an example being the Taylor Bennett Foundation which can help us to recruit from a multitude of backgrounds.

Thirdly, being very open to difference. We have to recognise that the best ideas are formed by having a multitude of voices and perspectives and backgrounds in a room: that is where creativity happens.

What are the key qualities that it takes to be a leader in today’s communications industry?

For me, it’s about being democratic and making sure you listen to the needs and wants of your team and their own career aspirations. There’s the need to ensure that everyone is feeling fulfilled and stimulated and that you know what their own career paths are in their own minds.

You can’t please everybody all of the time, and there has to be a reality check on that point. You might not love every single client or account, but being as democratic as is feasible would be the leadership quality that I admire the most in others and what I strive to be with my team.

There’s much debate around the future of work and the needs of a team – what is the key to the growth of a successful team and a positive working environment?

We’ve only recently launched the Health and Behavioural Change unit and that forms part of a bigger business decision for freuds more broadly, but as part of that process, we needed to ensure that we took the individuals on the team on the journey – it was about listening to everybody, taking comments on board so they feel part of carving out the direction we’re taking.

What do you love about the industry?

I love how varied my day can be – each day is usually packed with back-to-back meetings, and while that can be stressful it’s what keeps things interesting. At freuds and on this team, we have such a diverse portfolio of clients and projects it allows you to be quite adaptable and to have a broad range of knowledge in several specialist areas, that’s exactly the kind of challenge which I enjoy.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the industry will face over the next few years?

Political uncertainty and how that impacts client needs has got to be the ultimate challenge – and that’s at a global level. 

What piece of technology, other than your mobile phone, could you not live without?

I am not a very technological person. My prized possession next to my phone is my paper diary which has a hefty reward attached if I ever lose it!

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Author: Amy Hayer

With over ten years of recruitment experience, Amy is an expert in the healthcare communications market, offering invaluable insight into the talent landscape and state of the industry.

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