Career ladder: Vivienne Francis, Prostate Cancer UK

The deputy director of communications at the cancer charity talks about her career so far

Vivienne Francis
Vivienne Francis

Vivienne Francis has had a good year as deputy director of communications at the charity Prostate Cancer UK.

She was promoted to the role just over a year ago from head of media and PR. Her promotion is related in part to a change of emphasis in the charity’s comms operation.

"My current role now is not that different from my previous PR role – it’s just broader in scope," she says. "The charity itself has changed – previously we relied heavily on PR and didn’t even have a comms director. So it has been a big learning curve, but I have been able to bring some of the things I learned in PR to my new role."

Her career journey has involved communications roles in all the sectors. She started off in local journalism before moving into PR – what she calls "the other side".

"When I was younger, I was very keen to get into journalism, and my first job was as a reporter on the Ilkley Gazette in West Yorkshire," she says.  "I was there for two years but I didn’t have an intensive news patch. Also, being news, it lacked the element of forward planning."

After a spell as a media officer at a local authority, the London Borough of Havering, Francis moved to a PR agency for the arts, Anita Morris Associates, where she was a media relations executive.

She joined the voluntary sector in 2005 when she went to work for the health and social care charity Sue Ryder Care, firstly as PR manager and later as head of media and PR. She is in no doubt that she made the right choice.

"The third sector is more passionate and varied," says Francis. "I think you get more of a balance – you are doing something that supports others, but professionally it is diverse and an interesting challenge. For example, I have worked recently on the Movember campaign for Prostate Cancer UK and in November we had a reception at Downing Street."

She says she works "ridiculous hours" but loves it.

"There is scope to enjoy what you do," she says. "The opportunities for comms are great because we are not a large team, so you can get involved in a lot of different aspects if you want to."

She is part of a comms team of 18, and she also has a corporate role supporting the chief executive.

"It’s a very exciting time," she says. "We are undertaking a brand review, reworking our identity and working on a number of large scale mass communications campaigns, such as the recent TV advert featuring the comedian Bill Bailey, to raise awareness of our Sledgehammer Fund, which will raise money for research."

"It would be hard to find something else with this much variety," she says. "I have viewed this as a one-off opportunity all along. When I joined, I could see that the cause was about to have its time. So how could I top that?"

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