Claire Long has spent the past 18 months working for Santé Communications as an account executive. She talks to Jonathan Edwards about her typical day

New Drugs laid out on a cloth

Source: Tek Image/Science Photo Library

Santé Communications is a healthcare communications consultancy based in London. The company manages public relations, medical education and healthcare communications for large pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. Claire works in small teams (typically of six) on a variety of projects, ranging from promoting clients' products, through writing and producing patient healthcare literature, to organising medical teaching conferences. Claire is one of only 20 staff so she knows and works with all the personnel at every level in the company. 

Promoting products

Managing several projects, Claire shares time in a day among each project. While working on a public relations project she spends much of her day at her desk using web-based medical and pharmaceutical literature to research and better understand a client's product, eg a drug, so that she can write an informative press release for the media. To supplement her literature research Claire contacts senior doctors to get an impartial comment on the product. Her public relations projects can involve preparing press releases to promote a client's new product or producing information designed to limit damage to a product's reputation. For the latter Claire will spend time reviewing the popular press, ie newspapers, magazines, websites etc, to gauge the public image of the product, and that of competitors' rival drugs. Using information she has collected and the comments from senior doctors, Claire writes a press release and circulates it to journalists and news agencies. When journalists enquire about the press release, she must respond by supplying more detailed information and by arranging interviews for them with spokespeople for the client. 

Claire also works on projects to produce literature aimed at patients, which give advice on how to treat or deal with various illnesses, such as schizophrenia or diabetes. To write material that's useful, accessible and sympathetic to the patient, Claire must research the medical condition, its effect on the patient's body, and also understand the social implications of the illness, ie its impact on patients and their families. 

Managing events

Claire is also responsible for organising company events. Working with her team she must book the event and the venue. Claire invites attendees by e-mail or letter, and contacts speakers to talk at the conference. She must brief the speakers on what they'll be talking about and, using PowerPoint, prepare their presentations. This requires Claire to do in-depth research into the topic so that she can talk in detail about the science with the presenting doctor - her scientific background is essential here. 

Her role as an events coordinator means that Claire doesn't spend every day in the office behind a desk. If she has arranged an international conference, eg in Munich, Copenhagen, Athens or Barcelona, Claire will travel to the event to make sure it runs smoothly. This often means early mornings and late nights. 

Work satisfaction

Claire enjoys the varied, busy nature of her work and being part of a team. The two sides of the job complement her interests perfectly - using her chemistry training to probe scientific research and communicate her findings, and networking with clients and the media. She gets great satisfaction and a real sense of achievement from seeing her work published in print or discussed at a conference. 

Pathway to success

2006 - Present, Account executive, Santé Communications 

2003-2006, BSc biochemistry (1st), University of Warwick 

2001-2003, Chemistry, biology, maths and English literature A-levels, Glenlola Collegiate, Bangor 

This article was originally published in The Mole