Virgo co-founder launches 'virtual' healthcare agency as tonic to 'inflexible working policies'

One of the co-founders of Virgo Health, which was acquired by Golin in 2012, has launched a "virtual" health comms firm she says will be a tonic to the PR industry's "inflexible and restrictive working policies".

The Difference Collective is being launched this week by Angie Wiles (above), with two other former Virgo staff among the founding team.

Wiles launched Virgo Health alongside Sarah Matthew in 2003 after a spell leading UK health at Cohn & Wolfe. By then a 60-person agency, Virgo was sold to Golin (then GolinHarris) in 2012.

Wiles and Matthew then served as joint MDs of Golin's global healthcare practice until Wiles left at the end of 2015. Matthew now chairs the practice, after Golin promoted a new global president of healthcare last week.

The Difference Collective will provide senior-level freelancers to deliver short-term, project-based consultancy and content to the healthcare industry.

It will not pitch for work, a press release said. The release also said it had already secured work with clients, but did not name the firms involved.

The agency's "core collective" of freelancers includes former Virgo employees Helen Gorrod as head of curating talent and culture and Carly Stringer, who is given the title 'head of making things happen'. Maria Potter and Katy Sparks, whose experience includes having worked in-house for GSK and Pfizer respectively, are also on the Collective's roster.

Wiles said: "Throughout my career I’ve felt my work-life balance has been constantly challenged by set working rules and rigid agency constraints, and have been saddened to see the wealth of senior talent that has been lost to the industry due to inflexible and restrictive working policies.

"It is ok to want to work differently. By providing the best independent talent with the flexibility and digital infrastructure they need, clients can now access the best of the best collectively and at short notice without it costing the earth."

The agency surveyed 65 potential and current UK freelancers in April 2017, and found that top two drivers for going freelance were lack of flexible working options (cited by 55 per cent of respondents) and lack of control over working commitments (43 per cent), followed by office politics (39 per cent) and uninteresting work (33 per cent).

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