Meet the Makers: Eleanor Read, MD, Health
You’ve had a number of roles within Edelman, what has your journey looked like and how did you get into the communications industry?
I did a PhD in nutrition because I wanted to work in pharmaceutical clinical trials. But during the course of my studies, I realised it wasn't the right industry for me and so when I finished, I had a year off and went to be a sailing instructor in Greece.
When I came back, I ended up working for a global clinical research organisation. Then one day I saw a job advert for a medical writer position, and though I didn't know much about that area of the industry, I felt I had the relevant skills and decided to give it a go! That was my first job in medical communications. Eventually I got to a point in my personal life where I needed to move back to a London-based company and one of the job offers I got was from Edelman.
What sealed the deal for me was that I happened to come for my interview on the first day that the Southside office opened and when I walked in, the table in reception was full of glasses of champagne and then I walked around the office and saw this amazingly cool furniture and lots of really bright vibrant colours and collaboration spaces. And I thought, ‘I've got to have this job!’.
That was the beginning of my Edelman journey, and I must say my first impression didn’t disappoint.
I started in the medical communications practice and in six years went from being a medical writer to running the Editorial team. I really enjoyed it, but I got to the point where I wanted a new challenge and so I moved over to the Health PR team, working on the corporate comms and the public relations side of communications.
Now, five years on, I'm the MD of the Health team, which is something I don't think I would ever have predicted when I started. One of the great things about Edelman is the opportunities it offers – many I never even considered as being in my remit – and that's really been my career success. I've seen an opportunity and been able to take it, so I've had both an upward and sideways career trajectory.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I'm really proud of building the medical communications Editorial team. I took it from just two writers and built it up to 12 people with a mix of levels, supporting an expansion of our work as well as the team’s individual career growth.
What do you find most rewarding about the job?
The opportunity to work with some really smart, talented, diverse and passionate people from across the Edelman business.
Each person brings their best thinking and a different perspective to our clients' challenges so that we're not just solving the challenge they set us but are thinking ahead and also within the context of the wider global landscape in order to give them great counsel.
Personally, I'm someone who's motivated by continuous learning so working with individuals who are true specialists gives me exposure to a huge variety of topics, insights and expertise that I just wouldn’t get anywhere else at the size and scale available to me now.
How do you see your team developing within the next three years?
Digital is a big area of growth for us and so I'm focussed on expanding our team to bring in people with diverse digital backgrounds so that we're not just amplifying our PR in digital, we're bringing innovative digital solutions to our clients and thinking with this mindset from the start.
The pandemic has changed the way that we communicate, and I don't see us going back to the old ways of doing things, the future is digital-led, and we need to help our clients get on board with that.
The other thing is hybrid working. We have to take the best bits of working at home like flexibility and agility and combine it with the best bits of being in an office, while making sure we protect the health and wellbeing of our people – because that's at the heart of everything that we do.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced throughout your time at Edelman?
An ongoing challenge is finding more driven, talented people to join our team. At the moment we really need more people to join our already 50-strong Health team.
We have some really great clients and lots of exciting work to offer people who join our team from pet health to cancer care to vaccines, a lot of which is truly purpose lead.
How do you stay motivated?
One of our values at Edelman is curiosity and I have been given absolute license to be curious about everything in my time here. And I think that really fits with me my personal values and is probably a key reason I've stayed motivated and continued my journey at Edelman. I also work hard to maintain a good work life balance.
Currently my husband and I have a 2-year-old working Cocker Spaniel called Millie. She's amazing and a joy in our lives, but pre-lockdown I never in a million years would have thought I'd be a dog owner! That's what comes of working on a very large pet care account.
If you could offer one piece advice to someone considering a role at Edelman Health, what would it be?
Firstly, take it! But more seriously, don't be surprised if where you start is not where you end up, or where you thought you'd end up. To me, that's a really positive, exciting thing. Working at Edelman throws out all sorts of opportunities that you wouldn't necessarily have considered.
You could end up exploring something for a part of our industry that you didn't even know existed when you took the job.
What do you do outside work to relax?
My biggest passion is sailing. I've been on board a boat since I was eight weeks old and spent a lot of my time in my 20s and 30s racing yachts. That's how I met my husband and now we own a boat together.
That satisfies my competitiveness and also my ability to tune work out and be involved and all consumed in something else. It's also good way to keep fit and then obviously since having Millie it's been a source of real joy and relaxation for the whole family.
I've also managed to do the couch to 5K during lockdown and now Millie and I go lockdown running together. I think she likes it, and I certainly do!