UK Power Book 2020

The definitive guide to the brightest and most influential PR professionals in Britain.

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Sarah Woolnough

Sarah Woolnough

Executive director of policy & information

Cancer Research UK

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In no more than two sentences: describe the past year, and make predictions for 2020.

Unpredictable, unprecedented and a real roller-coaster! I think having a government with a strong majority will certainly change things in terms of the British political agenda, but as Harry and Meghan have already shown, that is no guarantee of a quiet news day.

In a sentence: what is your biggest professional challenge for 2020?

We’re launching our new corporate strategy this year, so making the most of the opportunity to influence the future of the charity will be a huge focus for me.

What has been your favourite campaign of the past year? (Not one you were involved in.)

I’ve been so moved by the Children’s Funeral Fund Campaign led by Carolyn Harris MP. She showed real tenacity keeping such an emotive issue on the political agenda amidst Brexit and was incredibly brave and vulnerable to share her own experiences.

Who handled PR most adeptly in the past year?

Sir David Attenborough. The spotlight he has shone on how much is at stake if we don’t protect our planet has generated huge behaviour change and at heart he is a genuinely good person who believes in everything he is campaigning for – if you get that right, you don’t need to ‘handle’ PR.

…And who most poorly?

Prince Andrew. A lot has already been said about his disastrous PR decisions but what struck me the most was his failure to apologise or recognise Epstein’s victims.

Which newspaper, broadcast news outlet or website is now most vital to keeping you informed?

The Today programme – it consistently sets the news agenda for the day.

In a sentence: what is the single most important aspect of the debate surrounding corporate purpose?

It needs to be authentic and at the heart of what an organisation stands for – it can’t just be a box-ticking exercise.

What’s the single most important thing the industry should do to encourage more diversity?

We’re taking this very seriously at Cancer Research UK as it’s so important we reflect the communities we work with, and we’re able to attract and retain the best possible people to work with us. There is no one quick fix; we have a whole programme in place to take us to where we want to be.

The industry jargon or buzzword that annoys me most is…

Using acronyms is something I’m trying hard to cut down on. It can be so easy to slip into them, especially for our government and policy work, but they can be elitist and leave people feeling excluded if they don’t understand them.

I can’t start the day without…


One surprising thing about me is…

People always seem surprised when I say I’m a Spurs season-ticket holder.