Ex-Portland health chief makes statement of intent with agency launch

Portland’s former health chief, Dr Jane Brearley, has announced the launch of her diversity-focused agency Intent Health, PRWeek can exclusively reveal.

Dr Jane Brearley will draw on more than two decades of healthcare comms experience to launch her diversity-focused agency
Dr Jane Brearley will draw on more than two decades of healthcare comms experience to launch her diversity-focused agency

Brearley left her job as managing partner at Portland in June, telling PRWeek she would take a career break to think about how the PR industry “can do so much better” before deciding on her next move.

Diversity at the heart of the agency

Her decision was to launch a purpose-driven healthcare agency founded on the principle that diversity, in all its forms, creates a stronger team and more engaging campaigns.

“If you act, think, and speak with intent, people will listen,” said Brearley, a regular entrant in PRWeek’s annual ‘Top 10 in Healthcare Comms’.

COVID-19 and BLM drive change

The agency chief said the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement had forced people to reconsider what matters to them, personally and professionally.

She cited recent CIPR research, which found that more than 90 per cent of PR practitioners are white and there is low representation of people from poorer backgrounds, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.

Looking at these figures, Brearley said it was time for a new type of healthcare agency, built on trust and respect and grounded in inclusion and representation.

She said: “When you talk to people about health, and they can’t hear you, nothing changes. One-size-fits-all campaigns don’t consider the vast diversity of the people we are trying to reach.”

Structure, location and clients

Intent Health will draw upon the expertise of a network of freelance operatives to provide strategic and creative counsel to its clients.

Brearley told PRWeek it was not her intention to hire staff in her own image because the core purpose of the new agency was to find and nurture talent from unexpected places.

She said the firm would build recruitment processes that eliminate bias “as much as possible” and make partnerships with groups whose social purpose was to bring diverse talent into the workplace.

Intent Health will initially operate as a virtual agency, with no fixed location. However, Brearley said the eventual model was to have “a creative space” for its staff to share and generate ideas, as well as to offer training.

“There is no point having space if we are going to use it merely to send emails to each other,” she said.

The agency will make an announcement about staff and clients next month, PRWeek understands.

Healthcare and corporate clients will be the firm’s primary focus, but Brearley expects to diversify its roster over time.

Held to account

Later in the autumn, Intent will announce the formation of its Accountability Council – a body of independent advisers.

Brearley said: “We take our purpose seriously and will be held to account by ourselves, our clients, and the industry. But going further than that, we are creating an independent council who will hold us to account across all aspects of inclusion.”

The founder and chief executive vowed to partner organisations that drive social change, source diverse talent and publish its equality data annually, including on retention and inclusion.

25 years in health comms

Brearley’s career in healthcare comms spans more than two decades. She worked for Red Door Communications, Waggener Edstrom and Publicis Resolute before joining Portland six years ago.

She said: “My vision is to create a community where difference is celebrated, where everyone has a true voice – and one that is heard – where we don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations and where we accept that constructive conflict creates the best ideas. Because if we all agree, what is the point?”

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