'Clever creative is never enough on its own' – Creative Q&A

PRWeek grills creative comms figures on how they got where they are, their career highlight, solving creative writer's block, and more. Today we speak to Philippa Cahill, creative director at M&F Health.

'Clever creative is never enough on its own' – Creative Q&A

How did you get where you are now?

I was one of the early Cardiff post-grad students, but while most of my peer group headed off to consumer or corporate roles, I chose healthcare. The human stories appealed to me, and I liked the challenge of a more highly regulated industry. Because I started in the mid-90s, I was raised on media relations, but later I worked on more patient support campaigns, and from that I naturally fell into patient storytelling. I joined Munro & Forster in 2014 and we started M&F Health in 2017, establishing the creative director role this year. I’ve been lucky that, as we’ve grown as an agency, it’s made sense to create this role for me. It works well because I’ve got the grounding of so many years in healthcare PR – I’m not coming along with creative ideas for the fun of it, I know what works and what doesn’t, and I am always focused on ensuring the patient is central to everything we do. You can definitely say I have patient advocacy bones.

What has been your creative career highlight?

It’s hard to pick, but from recent times it would probably be working on The Healthy Eating Song, a new nursery rhyme – a simple idea that turned into a layered campaign, which evolved over time. Once we were hearing it being sung by random children on the train, we knew we had a hit. The other campaigns that are closest to my heart are those that were co-created with patients.

...and lowlight?

Not one in particular, but historically it’s when you see your carefully created and crafted pitch idea executed by another agency – that can sting a bit.

What's your favourite campaign of the past three months (not one that you or your organisation were involved in), and why?

The Women’s Aid coercive control ‘Model’s own’ campaign was a brilliant creative: simple and powerful.

How do you solve creative writer's block?

I have analogue tendencies – I ditch the computer and pick up a pen and a pad. In an ideal world I head to the library, and I have a few treasured books that always make me think differently. I run, too; the combination of nature and a history podcast usually helps when I need an idea quickly.

How should PR grow its creative prowess?

We need to do our own PR better. People looking for their first (or next) career need to understand that it’s a creative industry, it’s not just about being a good writer or a good talker. We need to work harder to show our clients that creative is in our remit and capability. My job is to nurture creativity within the team, growing those skills hand-in-glove with strategic understanding and tactical know-how. Clever creative is never enough on its own, and it can be awkward and damaging if it’s done in isolation or just to be clever. In healthcare we have an extra responsibility to base creative in patient insights, and treat audiences with respect. It’s a craft that we need to practice, but we also need to understand what and who we are doing it for.

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