Ruder Finn MD Preston to set up public affairs arm

Ruder Finn's recently appointed MD John Preston has pledged to grow the healthcare agency's public affairs business.

Setting up a UK public affairs division is now under consideration. According to Preston, lobbying and monitoring work is currently undertaken only on an 'ad hoc basis'.

He said: 'We've done a lot of good work in public affairs - I think it's maybe time to make what we do more formal.'

Preston was promoted from his role as deputy MD earlier this month, replacing Lee Tomkins, who is to join Weber Shandwick next week.

His deputy MD role has been scrapped, with its remit divided between client services directors Pat Pearson and Claire Astle-Seth, a recent recruit to the UK operation. She previously worked in the same role in the agency's Singapore office.

Preston described Pearson, a former aide to health secretary Alan Milburn, as the most senior public affairs professional in the agency's UK office.

Tomkins is to join WS on 1 July in the newly created role of executive vice-president of global healthcare.

She will work in the London office alongside WS director of European healthcare Karen Winterhalter, and will report to joint UK chief executive David Brain and global healthcare president Laura Schoen.

Preston joined Ruder Finn in May last year (PRWeek, 4 May 2001). He has previously worked at Hill & Knowlton and was a founding partner of Interscience, where he remained as a freelance consultant after its acquisition by Medicus/DMBB. Before entering the PR industry he was a clinical psychologist.

Ruder Finn was ranked 47th in PRWeek's 2002 Top 150 league table (PRWeek, 26 April), a jump of 11 places from the 2001 rankings.

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