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Q&A - Catherine Oliver, managing director, Red Door Communications

Where are they now? Communiqué Awards Young Achiever winner 2004

Catherine Oliver, Red Door Communications 

Over the next few weeks we will be taking a look through the list of past winners of the Communiqué Awards Young Achiever of the Year and asking them, where are they now?

1. What first attracted you to healthcare comms?

A recruitment consultant told me that I was competing with Oxbridge graduates to get a job in PR and would really struggle to get interviews. However, I should consider a specialist area called 'healthcare' as they were a bit more desperate!

2. Where were you in your career when you won the Communiqué Young Achiever's award?

I was a senior account director, on the management team at Red Door Communications (RDC) and leading accounts for AstraZeneca in CVD, Lilly in critical care, Wyeth in RA and SPMSD across their vaccine portfolio.

3. What did winning mean to you and your career?

I was incredibly proud and it certainly raised my profile within the industry. It enabled me to get involved in industry initiatives such as working groups of the Healthcare Communications Association. RDC won Consultancy of the Year that same night so it was quite a celebration.

4. How has your career developed since then?

I became a board director of RDC in 2005 and managing director on 1st April 2010. The team marked the occasion with a crafty April Fool's joke that involved around 85 per cent of them 'calling in sick' and then, just as I was getting to grips with the amount of work a very depleted staff was going to have to get through that day, surprising me with a celebratory breakfast in our boardroom. My initial response was colourful to say the least, but I soon calmed down once they'd given me a glass of champagne: A trick that has worked ever since.

5. And what is the most important lesson you have learnt during this time?

Understand your own strengths and the impact of over-using these. 

6. What is your current role?

As managing director at RDC I'm still involved on a day-to-day basis with our clients. My role, along with that of the other board members, is to ensure that we're finding innovative solutions to our clients' challenges. I also work with the board to grow our company, whilst ensuring that this is not at the expense of our talented team, or our clients.

7. Describe its most challenging aspect…

At the moment, given the tough environment that many of our clients find themselves in, it is finding ways that we can meet their needs whilst managing our own objectives as a business. Another challenging aspect is finding the right people to join the team - both consultancies and pharma companies are competing for a small number of people (see, we're still desperate fifteen years on!)

8. And it's most rewarding…

Seeing the fantastic work that we deliver in partnership with our clients; knowing that what we have done has changed behaviour on some level. It still makes my day when someone on the team receives some glowing feedback from a client or other stakeholder.

9. What has been the most significant change to the industry since you began in it?

If I had to choose just one I think it would be changes in technology - and I don't only mean how we use digital channels to engage with audiences and how quickly information now spreads across the globe. It's easy to forget that fifteen years ago the use of mobile phones and emails had only just started to take off in the industry. I have vivid memories of standing in the 'post room' for hours on end faxing out press releases to journalists.

10. Name one piece of advice you would give to some one starting their career in healthcare comms…

Make sure that you have the depth and breadth of experience at each level to help you be the best possible consultant. It's vital we continue to demonstrate how communications adds value to the marketing mix and people who are true consultants are able to do this. Through the value that consultants add, communications maintains its place at an early and strategic stage of a brand or campaign's development.


Catherine can be contacted at or +44 20 8392 8040 


2nd July 2012

From: Marketing



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