The working life of a head of communications

Categories: People & Places.

Cathy Salmon is joint Head of Communications at The Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. Here she tells ehospice what inspires her work and why she’s full of praise for Gareth Southgate.

I studied languages at university and have always been interested in people and their stories. My whole career has been spent in communications. I started as a news reporter on the Bucks Free Press newspaper in High Wycombe, progressing to feature writing in Fleet Street, on women’s magazines and then as a freelance. After a career break to bring up two daughters, I moved into public relations, launching my own PR consultancy before joining the communications team here at The Hospice of St Francis nearly five-and-a-half years ago.

There is always a lot going on for our small communications team. The key things I am working on include the Grand Opening here at the hospice of the Myeloma UK garden, as featured at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show – one of only nine among the 27 gardens exhibited to be relocated in its entirety and at no cost to us; a major national awards submission; our fifth legendary Mud Pack Challenge; plans for our 40th birthday next year and a fresh take on encouraging supporters to engage with us through a new narrative based on the strapline #EveryLifeIsPrecious, embedding this through all our communications. It is early days, but it is exciting to see where it will lead us!

The patients and families whose stories I tell inspire my work. It is humbling, rewarding and a huge privilege to be able to hear about and share the incredible impacts and difference the hospice makes to people’s lives in so many ways. Aside from them, my colleagues across the hospice – seeing the way so many of them go about their work with such dedication, humanity and love, touches and inspires me every day.

My biggest work achievement to date was working with the then CEO three years ago to produce the content for an eight-and-a-half-minute feature on Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today. Journalist Justin Webb interviewed patients and families about their care both at The Hospice of St Francis and at home in the context of a wider national debate about hospice care, which Hospice UK was very much involved in. In profile-raising terms, it is a tough one to match!

Recently I was really impressed with Gareth Southgate, the England football team manager and the way he spoke at this year’s World Cup. He was calm, honest, open and assured, masterfully managing expectations about England’s performance. In previous years, the nation’s expectations have run away with themselves, but he managed to be realistic at the same time as being very positive. His approach was very refreshing.

I admire Kamal Ahmed, previously Business Editor and now Economics Editor at the BBC. He takes complicated business issues like share price fluctuations, market forces and what is happening on the High Street and explains them simply, slowly and in terms everyone can understand. This is quite a skill.

For more information visit The Hospice of St Francis

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