The launch of Certain Health marks a return to PR for comms veteran Paul Blackburn, who sold his previous agencies to Publicis in 2010. He worked for Publicis Life Brands Resolute as joint managing director until 2013 and in recent years has been a specialist headhunter.
Announcing his new venture yesterday, he declined to name his agency's founding clients, but said that one is a Europe-based pharma company and the other a UK biotech.
“For smaller companies – biotechs in particular – the need to create the appropriate corporate presence to continue to attract rounds of funding is an important part of the work I see us doing, and many of these companies have absolutely fascinating game-changing science to offer, which is wonderful to work on,” Blackburn told PRWeek.
His new company is a “hybrid agency” that will “operate fundamentally as a virtual agency, but with physical premises for occasional use.”
People no longer need to work in an office “in the way that we all were in the past in order to do great work for clients”, he said.
“There is a wealth of really good people whose lifestyle prevents or hinders them from doing their best work if they are tied to going to an office.”
Certain Health is “channel-neutral, with an integrated approach spanning PR, medical education and creative, (with digital throughout) and the ability to deliver excellently across any or all of these channels,” he said.
Blackburn cited the combination of agility, creativity and cost-effectiveness as being appealing to prospective clients.
He has already assembled a team of four people and is “keen to rapidly expand this team with full-time and part-time colleagues, dependent on client needs”.
Senior staff will be involved in the day-to-day delivery of client business, not just managing teams remotely, according to Blackburn.
And “with a charging structure that doesn’t penalise clients for senior involvement we can improve and accelerate positive outcomes – it enables the client to do more,” he said.
“For years I’ve felt that a more flexible and integrated structure could bring huge benefits for clients and colleagues – now, starting with a small team, I’m making that a reality.”
Blackburn started out in sales and marketing at Merck and Abbott before switching to comms in 1990 when he joined Edelman as an account director.
He rose to become head of healthcare during his four years there, then spent five years at Ketchum, where he was managing director of the agency’s healthcare practice.
A two-year stint as managing director at Fleishman Hillard UK followed. He left in 2001 and set up Resolute Communications and Real Science – which were sold to Publicis in 2010.
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