Interview: Richard Hoey

The director of communications at the Institute of Cancer Research says comms people must know what motivates charity workers

Richard Hoey
Richard Hoey

The Institute of Cancer Research's director of communications was forced to hit the ground running when he joined the charity, based in London, earlier this year.

It was in the middle of planning a rebrand when Richard Hoey, former editor of the medical magazine Pulse, took on his new role in July. The process had already begun, but Hoey has been instrumental in communicating the changes since it launched a new logo last month.

The charity works closely with funding organisations, including Cancer Research UK, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Wellcome Trust. It has key partnerships with the Royal Marsden cancer hospitals.

"We are working in a crowded field and much of our external communications is done in partnership with other organisations," he says. "One of the challenges is to craft a distinctive voice for ourselves while getting across the aims of our partnership."

Profile-raising

The charity is hoping that its new branding will better communicate what the charity does and help to improve its profile.

"We wanted to get across our scientific excellence and the benefits that science has for patients," he says. Hoey believes that the new branding has been well received so far.

Some journalists who make the move into PR might struggle with the challenge of communicating a rebrand straight after having an editorial role, but Hoey describes his move to the world of PR as a "return to where I came from". He spent eight years at Pulse, including three in the editor's chair, but before that, he worked in the Cancer Research UK press office for three years.

"I really enjoyed my job at Pulse and was extremely passionate about what I did there," says Hoey. "I wasn't going to leave a job like that except for a role that was equally stimulating. The ICR is easy to feel enthusiastic about because it is genuinely pioneering and the benefits to patients are very clear to see."

Hoey believes that he would not have been as attracted to a job in the private sector, because the thought of the good that comes from working at a charity is a real motivator.

To be successful in a charity communications role, Hoey believes that PR professionals need a proper understanding of their organisation and what it does. "You also need to understand the people working at your charity and what motivates them."

Varied role

His role is busy and varied, he says, and incorporates press, PR, internal communications, the website, publications, annual reviews and science policy.

He is also charged with growing the charity's communications department, which was previously split across different teams.

"There is a big task in terms of building up the team, and I have started recruiting. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Next on his to-do list is improving the way the charity communicates. "We need to be more sophisticated, but we haven't had the capacity before," he says.

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