Biggest health comms appointments and surprise departures of 2021

PRWeek reviews some of the biggest hires and departures in health comms over the past year, from new faces at pharma multinationals to senior appointments at agencies and in the public sector.

Clockwise, from top left: Sheila Mitchell; Eleanor Duff; Emma Greenwood; James Lyons
Clockwise, from top left: Sheila Mitchell; Eleanor Duff; Emma Greenwood; James Lyons

Sheila Mitchell, senior advisor, Freuds


Sheila Mitchell had left Public Health England, where she had been marketing director for almost a decade, and took up a new role as a part time senior adviser at Freuds at the start of this year. She has a long-standing association with the agency, which counted PHE as one of its major clients.

In 2011, when Mitchell was marketing director at the Department of Health, Freuds was handed a PR contract with the Whitehall department worth £1m a year.

In her new role at Freuds, Mitchell is providing strategic counsel to the agency’s private-sector health clients.

Nicole Yost, chief executive, Havas Just::

Nicole Yost left BCW, where she was managing director of healthcare business transformation, after less than a year to take up the top job at Havas Just::.

She had also previously been joint managing director, London, at Porter Novelli, after joining the agency in 2015 to lead its healthcare practice.

“Havas Just:: has a strong reputation and a distinct personality. I am excited to be part of its future,” she said.

Yost wants to see the agency “play a critical role in helping our clients to shape the post-pandemic conversation around the provision and value of healthcare.”

James Lyons, director of comms for NHS England and Improvement (NHS E&I)

Lyons landed the top comms job at NHS E&I just four years after leaving a career in journalism and entering PR. Lyons started out as head of media and public affairs at NHS England before joining NHS E&I as deputy director of comms in December 2019. He was promoted to the top job after Simon Enright departed for a new role as comms secretary to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

In his new role, Lyons leads NHS E&I’s national comms team and its ‘programme teams’ and works closely with seven regional comms teams.

Mike Thompson, chairman of Brevia Consulting’s health arm

In his first agency job, Mike Thompson, the former chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, joined Brevia Consulting's health division as chairman.

Thompson spent 20 years at GlaxoSmithKline, culminating in the role of senior vice-president, global commercial strategy and platforms. He left GSK in 2015 and in 2016 became ABPI chief executive. Thompson stepped down from his role at the association in 2019.

He said: “I am excited to have joined Brevia, which has supported clients in the health sector for over 20 years. I look forward to working with my new colleagues to develop our health client base and provide expert advice and support to clients.”

Fiona Oliver, global head of public affairs and communications in Sanofi’s general medicines division

Fiona Oliver left AbbVie, where she was head of global patient relations and international public affairs, to become global head of public affairs and communications in Sanofi's general medicines division.

She has worked in comms for more than 25 years, including senior roles at GlaxoSmithKline, Abbott and AbbVie. Oliver told PRWeek: “Focusing on core assets and key markets while maximising our foundational brands is key to maximising health outcomes for patients and driving growth."

She stressed the importance of "taking the time to listen to people across the organisation and engaging with key external stakeholders to really understand our place in the healthcare ecosystem, and where we can deliver the most impact."

Eleanor Duff, head of global comms, Sanofi Pasteur



Eleanor Duff moved from AstraZeneca, where she was global head of oncology R&D corporate affairs, to become global head of vaccines comms at rival firm Sanofi Pasteur.

Based in Lyon, she reports to Thomas Triomphe, executive vice-president and head of Sanofi Pasteur.

“This is a great opportunity for a communications professional to be able to engage stakeholders in a conversation about the value of vaccines as a critical public health tool," Duff said.

“I look forward to ensuring that Sanofi's 100-year legacy of vaccine innovation is at the forefront of this discussion and that, beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines remain front and centre for communities as the best possible protective measures against multiple diseases across the lifespan.”

Emma Greenwood, director, Hanover Health

Greenwood left Cancer Research UK, where she had risen to become director of policy and public affairs during a 13-year stint at the charity, to take up her first agency role.

She joined Hanover’s health team in October and reports to the agency’s deputy managing directors, Alex Davies and Emma Gorton.

Greenwood said: “Continuing to advocate for UK patients to have access to world-class healthcare, and for a flourishing life sciences sector, will be at the heart of my approach and I am looking forward to bringing my experience to this role.”

Melanie Klenk, group head of healthcare, Instinctif Partners

After more than a decade at Weber Shandwick, where she was a senior vice-president based in the agency’s Frankfurt office, Melanie Klenk moved to Instinctif Partners. Ed Amory, chief executive of Instinctif, said: “We already have £5m-plus of healthcare revenue, but we need to strengthen and develop our offer, integrating practices and geographies to offer our clients even better support. Melanie is a talented and creative individual, and she will be a very valuable addition to our team, both across the group and within Germany."

Klenk said: “I am confident that through integration, connected strategies and fresh thinking I can help take the Group’s healthcare offering to the next level and, most importantly, ensure that patients worldwide have access to the best possible treatments and solutions."


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