By Ellie Philpotts, Trainee Account Executive
The future can seem like a big thing when you’re trying to figure out where to take it. With so many options out there – alongside developing industries and new degree subjects wrestling their way into prospectuses and career advisor offices year on year – it could be easy to get lost in the maze of métiers. However, communications is a field that’s both permanently progressing and responsible for capturing a lot of attention – including mine!
There’s quite the community of communicators. Traditional PR; campaigns; social and digital media; advocacy; creative campaigns; stakeholder management, and public affairs are just some examples of specialisms, so it’s certainly not a case of everyone aspiring towards this industry being automatically grouped together. Growing up, I was always drawn to the writing side of things, making my own magazines and imagining reporting at big events. But it was my cancer diagnosis as a teenager that directed me more clearly towards where I am now.
As soon as my chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma began when I was 15, I became even more captivated by the power of words. Words explained the ins and outs of my illness in a way that I (as someone whose favourite subject definitely wasn’t Biology!) could understand. Words broke the barrier that could potentially separate oncologist from patient. Words jumped out from the paper to reassure me, recounting the stories of people who’d previously been in my position. They offered hope, and prompted me to want to swap from sole reader of them, to writer.
Because of this, I felt charities like CLIC Sargent and Bloodwise allowed a different outlet of energy, whether through fundraising, events or simply meeting others, and as my health improved, so did my confidence at getting involved with media opportunities. Since then, I’ve remained keen to represent some of my fellow patients, motivated by wanting to support those more recently diagnosed and raise awareness to the public. Teenage cancer is an area that can be disproportionately overlooked – its rareness is probably to blame, but sadly cases are increasing all the time, with approximately seven young people diagnosed with one of this umbrella of diseases every day in the UK, each often accompanied with additional unique challenges.
You have no say in developing cancer or how your body responds to treatment, but you do have a say in how you allow it to impact the rest of your life. For me, this has meant redirecting my initial focus, even six years into remission, to combine my passion for communications with the oncology side of healthcare.
My experience within this includes talking about teenage cancer on outlets like Channel 5 News, Huffington Post and Metro (and my dissertation!), and it was through the Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign that I met the team at M&F Health. It was a collaborative, disease awareness campaign that saw Janssen partner with nine patient advocacy groups and an internationally acclaimed British designer, to raise public awareness of the condition during blood cancer awareness month. At the heart of the campaign was an innovative and interactive art installation that visually and emotively communicated the real life stories of 104 people affected by blood cancer.
This was an incredibly inspiring, very visual project and I was fortunate enough to be approached by Lymphoma Association to participate. Shortly after the installation launched, I did a BBC interview about why changing the public’s perception of blood cancer is so important – the video gained over a million views, moving closer to more of the population knowing about symptoms and treatment.
Having always wanted a career in this sector (and to move to London after graduating, I’ll admit!), coming across my employer in this way felt like a little bit of serendipity. Being able to expand on my passion for oncology policy, such as alongside our client CLIC Sargent, as well as contributing to a range of topics including childhood nutrition and pharmaceuticals, has definitely meant that swapping from case study to Account Executive has been a jump I’ve enjoyed making!
Day-to-day is all about different directions, from MP engagement to tweeting, newsletters to event planning, press releases to media monitoring, but I love the versatility of agency life. With a small but mighty team, constant chances to elevate my links to healthcare to more professional levels, and a whole lot of variety, I’m loving being at M&F Health and look forward to what the future may bring here.