Helen Hey – Executive Director, Global Business Development, Ashfield Healthcare CommunicationsHelen Hey - MedComms Day Q&A

How did you get into your role?  

Originally I trained as a general nurse, then moved into pharmaceutical sales, global clinical research, scientific and technical medical information in a local affiliate then marketing. So my background enabled me to easily step into strategic communications then selling strategic communications as I had been a client, worked closely with patients and built up a broad experience of many diseases.

What is a typical day like?

There isn’t a typical day! Most days I am either researching or contacting new clients or developing new approaches, checking in with my marketing and BD team and sharing best practice. Oh and there’s the business reporting – weekly checking we are developing a strong enough new business pipeline to achieve our annual target.

What projects have you worked on that have been particularly interesting?

Strategic communications planning projects are always the most rewarding: really getting to understand disease, market landscape, patient needs, HCP current practice and then looking at the most effective way to educate and impact on HCP clinical practice in that space… Recently we have taken this a bit further and developed HUMANISE – an evolution on the old approach. This different approach to strategic comms planning is based on elements of behaviour change theory to really try and understand barriers and motivations for change.

What’s the most exciting project you have worked on?

I worked on many blockbuster drugs and drugs in development – it’s hard to choose but I think possibly the two projects that taught me the most were for products that failed to make it to the market place… One was when I was a clinical research scientist on a global clinical trial programme for an antiplatelet aggregator that also had vasodilatory properties and after 2 years the drug was pulled because of its lack of efficacy mainly in the EU where clinical practice differed greatly from the US – with hindsight we should have segmented the population. The second was a respiratory drug in phase 3 – following the journey and building a respiratory brand for a company new to the disease area as well as forming new relationships, creating branding and stories and rationale for the product and finally watching the data presented at numerous high science meetings around the globe. The work of my team, was extremely fulfilling.

What’s the best part about your job?

Facilitating so many interactions to get better BD and seeing the results of some fantastic pitches.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in a similar role?

Resilience and restlessness… In this role you are always questioning and striving for the personal and professional best for yourself and your team (just so happens the team is the whole company so you are never done) so you need to listen, have confidence to challenge and strive for excellence, all of which need both restlessness and resilience.

What do you find unique about your career field?

It has spanned from my student days both arts and science, Science A levels, BA degree; even now creating a pitch or programme requires knowledge of science and technology, then empathy with HCPs and patients plus creative visual application for comms excellence to reach and engage your audience.

What is it like to work for Ashfield?

Exciting… Ashfield is growing and it’s strategic – we want to be an agile partner of choice for pharmaceutical and biotech clients and our latest acquisitions in rare disease, consultancy and behaviour change coupled with our inherent strong scientific and creative capabilities enables us to offer ever new and impactful solutions to our clients.

What is the most exciting place you have travelled to with work?

Too many to count but Argentina, Australia and Canada must be my favourites.

What do you think is the future of MedComms?

Bright… Sadly there will always be sickness and disease and new solutions to combatting that, including prevention… healthcare communications elucidates, educates, excites, and engages a growing audience hungry for more information and needing a reason to believe, to improve health globally – I still want to be part of that after more than 30 years because there’s still a lot to do…