After winning the 2020 Communique award for Healthcare Communications Leader, Sarah discusses what it takes to be a leader, the future of healthcare comms, and why Havas Life Medicom is the agency she calls home.
What does it take to be a leader in this industry?
First, leaders need to deliver today but always keep an eye on tomorrow. How and what we communicate to our audiences is changing. As leaders, we must remain agile to be able to realise the opportunities ahead. But we must never lose sight of what matters to people right now, whether it be our clients, our audience or the people working hard in our business.
Second, leave your ego at the door! Allowing others to fulfil their potential is so important – creating an environment where people can shine and be proud of the role they play. I know this is easier said than done, particularly now with remote working. Now more than ever we must adapt to new ways of coaching and mentoring to help people find their passion and purpose in the industry.
Lastly, remember that leaders don’t know everything. We need to approach everything with an open mind and listen. Early in my career as a medical sales representative, I learned a lot about active listening, ensuring I didn’t jump in with my own solutions immediately. Listen, probe and respond to each individual situation without letting your pre-conceived ideas takeover. Always be willing to learn from others.
We must adapt to new ways of coaching and mentoring to help people find their passion and purpose in the industry.
What would you say is your stand-out leadership quality?
Well, I have been told it is my approach to uniting people and establishing a mentoring philosophy. I genuinely want to help people feel proud about what they do. I’m a generalist. Having worked across most facets of pharma, from sales, medical education, market access, branding, PR and communications, means I have a 360 approach to finding solutions. I really try to approach every challenge with an ‘opportunity mindset’ and live by my own person values of being authentic, open and positive.
You have grown your career within agency, what made Havas Life Medicom the agency for you?
The people – they have truly become my family. I have learned from some of the smartest people in the business, many of whom are still part of our team. We learn from each other, we inspire each other, we laugh, we cry! It’s a safe environment where you can always find ways to grow both personally and professionally.
Our agency’s journey, and therefore my journey, has been full of change and therefore opportunity. I have changed with the business as we have gone from a small independent agency to being part of a global network. We have the agility and entrepreneurial spirit of a small start-up balanced with the global opportunities of a network – the best of both worlds.
What’s next for you and Havas Life Medicom?
Focussing on our people and how we bring them together, virtually. We need to evolve and define new ways of working and mentoring in the current remote working environment
For our clients, we’ll continue to do what we do best – adapt, be agile and find the right solutions for them.
In the longer term, the COVID pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for omnichannel communication approaches and will be the catalyst for new ways of working. Now is the time for action. We need to offer our clients smart and agile solutions so they can remain connected and relevant to their audience. And we need to do it in a meaningful way, that makes a difference to them whether they are patients or healthcare professionals. Yes, there will be challenges, but I think it’s a great time for agencies to realise the next era in pharma marketing.
Now is the time for action. We need to offer our clients smart and agile solutions so they can remain connected and relevant to their audience.
What would you say to people starting out in the industry?
First, that our industry is an amazing place to work! It offers a diverse range of things to get involved in, from clinical trials to consumer marketing, from creative projects to scientific communications. And we do all this for life-changing brands and meaningful causes. It’s really valuable to your career to work somewhere where you get exposure and experience on a range of activities, to help you understand where you may want to specialise.
Second, it’s important to find the right fit for you in terms of a business’ culture and vision. It’s a tricky one to assess remotely but talking to company leaders and employees should give you the insights you need to get the right ‘feeling’ about a business you’re considering joining. Even if you can’t be physically in a shared workplace with your colleagues, having a strong sense of team and supportive colleagues can make all the difference to your journey.
Sarah Mikhailov is Managing Partner at Havas Life Medicom, leading the Brand & Advertising division of the agency.