Here at Hanson Search we continue exploring the careers of communications pros around the world today. Our Director of Healthcare Communications, Amy Hayer sat down (virtually) with Katie Roberts, Digital Communications Manager at GCI Health, to find out more about her career path, what she enjoys about agency life and her passion for digital communications in healthcare.
How did you get into comms?
I first got into comms when I decided to take a sandwich year as part of my degree and work in industry - my placement was a year at Disney. It wasn’t a compulsory part of my degree but I was adamant it was an essential part of kick-starting my career in order to build my practical skill-set and increase the potential for future opportunities. I’m so glad I pushed myself to take that leap, even though no one else on my degree did, as it sparked my passion for working in comms.
Why did you want to move from in-house to agency?
The prospect of being able to work on multiple projects and accounts internationally was extremely exciting to me as it provided so many opportunities which you don’t necessarily get with a role in-house - with the faster pace I felt like it would expedite my career development and learning opportunities. I’d previously worked with multiple agencies while in-house and I was always energised by the ideas and concepts they came up with for projects - being a creative soul I knew that this was something that would fuel my passions.
When the opportunity came up at GCI Health I knew I had to grab it. I spoke with multiple people during my interview process and the Head of Digital at GCI Health US was really inspiring - his forward thinking combined with his digital values and vision was really aligned to my thinking and I knew I could learn a lot from him and the team.
What is your advice for people thinking about a move into agency?
Take the leap - you won’t regret it! You develop and learn every single day and the opportunities are endless with the creative freedom you have. When you’re looking for an agency, make sure they invest in their people and you as an individual. I wanted to be part of a team that would allow me to push myself, develop my career and my passion for digital comms, but also have a good work life balance - mental health is important! GCI Health’s mantra is to be Inspired by People– all kinds of people – clients, patients, healthcare professionals, payors, but most importantly the team who they put at the heart of everything they do. I love this. Digital comms is part of GCI health’s strategy and to enhance this commitment I was able to co-create a role and job description specifically for me, so I could follow my passions as well as help GCI Health stand out as an agency.
Where did your interest in digital comms come from?
This came a few years ago when I started a blog and focussed my attention on social media. I was captivated by every aspect - from building a community, to creating cool concepts, to running ads for brands - it was awesome to be on the influencer side of social media, but I was also intrigued by the ‘other side’ - the brand perspective. I was working in-house in a pharmaceutical company at the time and I put the business case forward for launching our (at that time non-existent) social media channels. I then helped build the entire social media portfolio from the ground up - from community management to design to social listening to content creation. Feeling accomplished with all I could do in that company I began looking for a new challenge which brought me to GCI Health.
What are the biggest changes that digital healthcare comms is facing at the moment?
Firstly, did you know that 73% of physicians believe social media helps them make better treatment decisions and 54% of physicians actually use social media platforms to exchange peer-to-peer medical information. The relevance of social media for HCPs to communicate to their patients and public has been central and growing for some time. But the COVID-19 pandemic has seen an explosion of HCPs becoming social influencers overnight. There has been a drastic increase in attention to those who have an already established or growing online presence that has resulted in a new wave of medical social influencers on a mission to tackle misinformation and provide up-to-date and accurate information to their patients and the public. Yet for many HCPs, the virtual world strips them of the invaluable connection to the mentors that inspire them.
At GCI Health, we want to challenge clients to push boundaries within the realms of pharma, navigating the complexities of compliance together, in a way that can cut through online. By seeing our stakeholders as people we can understand what motivates and engages them in a way that truly drives impact and ultimately behaviour change.
Do you have a mentor, or who is the person who inspires you the most?
My parents - while they’ve had the complete opposite careers, they’ve always taught me the importance of a great work ethic and self-worth in business. Everybody has something to give and skills to contribute which is what makes great teamwork when you’re all different! You may be more experienced in some areas and weaker in others - so it’s about owning your strengths and weaknesses and knowing what you can bring to the business but also working somewhere that will help you support your weaker areas and help you develop in those areas.
If you weren’t in comms, what would you be doing?
Acting! My alter ego is an actress in the west end - I’m obsessed with musicals and used to act and sing - I still do but more so on the sofa rather than the stage, with my partner and my dog as my audience (ha!)