Five minutes with Isabel Hope-Urwin, Content and Communications Manager and EDI Lead at The London Clinic

Each month, we spend five minutes with one of the impressive professionals that call Harley Street home. This month we’re meeting Isabel Hope-Urwin, Content and Communications Manager and EDI Lead at The London Clinic

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at The London Clinic?

I lead the communications team at The London Clinic, an independent hospital and charity on Harley Street.

Externally, that involves PR, managing a busy press office, reputation management, digital/social media, branding, content production, partnerships, and ultimately telling the story of our hospital in a way that resonates with patients and the general public.

This has resulted in some incredibly varied campaigns, like collaborating with the NHS to ensure Londoners had access to cancer diagnostics and treatment during the pandemic. We support patients in telling their own stories, often with a view to raising awareness or sharing messages of hope with others who might be in a similar situation. And we also work with brilliant charity partners, such as in stem cell to encourage people to join the donor register.

Internally, I lead comms for a hospital of around 1,400 healthcare professionals and 700 consultants, ensuring messages are delivered in the right way, at the right time. It involves a fair amount of the day spent on Outlook, but equally events, webinars and exploring new channels and technologies to improve our internal comms.

Since summer 2021, I’ve also chaired our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Network, which is a group of 20 volunteers who all care deeply about creating a workplace where everyone can be their most authentic selves. It’s a privilege being part of such a diverse organisation (over 40 nationalities!) and I love that I’m able to bring comms, culture, EDI and celebrating our community all together in my role.

Describe your average day.

It starts with the news and a coffee, after an increasingly chilly bike ride into work. Then onto social media to check on our content and how it’s resonating with our audiences.

After that, my day is generally divided equally between PR/brand campaigns, content creation and internal comms. Recently in PR we’ve been working on promoting our innovative cancer services, including a remarkable patient story and our holistic therapies for people undergoing treatment for cancer. For content, we’ve been drilling down into social media and ensuring we’re providing our different communities with relevant, engaging content. If you’ve ever wondered how a biopsy or a blood sample works then watch this space for our upcoming Pathology Instagram Reels!

Internally, our focus this quarter has been on our annual flu vaccine campaign, National Inclusion Week, Black History Month and promoting our Freedom to Speak Up guardians, a vital network of volunteers who support colleagues in raising concerns.

But then there are always some wonderful curveballs – like the other day I was on set filming a capsule endoscopy procedure with CBBC. It’s fun to roll with the punches.

How did you get to where you are today?

Hard graft! I’ve always been interested in writing and current affairs, so I knew I needed to work somewhere I’d be writing and scouring the news on a daily basis.

My first job after graduating was as a receptionist in a media agency. After a few months, probably because of my loquacious internal emails, I was approached by the business director to support with PR and events. In the evening, I was writing for local papers, content writing for an SEO agency and even doing some translation work. It was hectic and hard work, but over time I built up enough of a portfolio to land my first job in business PR.

I’d encourage anyone interested in comms to spend some time working in PR agencies. The variety of work, client challenges, the need for clever problem solving, not to mention the opportunities for progression and riffing off fellow creative comms people, all played a part in getting me to where I am today. PR agencies can be tough – at one point I was running 11 accounts and working 15-hour days – but the skills you learn are invaluable… and don’t forget transferrable!

My overall goal had always been to move in-house for a purpose-led company. So, after a few more years growing my skillset – and taking every opportunity that came my way, including in-house at an advertising agency, freelance consultancy and voluntary charity/lobbying work – I joined the hospital I’m at now.

How has Covid-19 impacted your organisation?

I started at The London Clinic in April 2020 – talk about a baptism of fire – so our hospital as impacted by Covid was all I knew for a long time. Overnight, business as usual ceased and that first year in particular was all about how we could contribute to the effort and support the NHS by helping with waiting lists.

With the arrival of the vaccine, we started to feel the first signs of change. Certainly, from a comms perspective, the tone shifted from “we need to get through this” to “there’s light at the end of the tunnel”. While that first 12-18 months were challenging, I’m so proud to have been in healthcare during the pandemic. The sense of purpose and community, the amazing clinical and non-clinical people I’ve worked alongside, I often found it more reassuring than had I been working in a different sector.

It also put the value of comms on the map like never before, particularly internal comms. We were charged with decoding government/media updates in real-time and keeping abreast of ever-changing information in order to keep our patients and staff safe. Comms were critical, and we’re seeing exciting opportunities spring from that new awareness around comms.

What do you like most about being based on Harley Street?

I’ll admit I had my misconceptions about Harley Street, but I’ve been bowled over by the sense of community. Patient care is everything, and I feel lucky to work with such integrous, capable people.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Harley Street Area?

Coming from a healthcare perspective, I’m particularly interested in Harley Street as a global player. The pandemic impacted our international footprint, but we’re now in a period of recovery and innovation. There is so much on offer here, so I’m interested in how we come together to showcase what we’re made of on the international stage.

How does the Harley Street BID support your business?

Our Property and Strategic Programmes Director, Jonathan, is a board member for Harley Street BID, so we’ve developed a close relationship from the outset. One of the things I find most beneficial is the BID’s understanding of the area and access to insights across the many different businesses here. I love how they promote our sense of community and continually identify opportunities for collaboration.

How could a visitor to the area spend their time here?

The London Clinic recently ran walking tours of the area for our colleagues. The neighbourhood is steeped in amazing history, like the secret elopement of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning (swoon).

Beyond that, I love music and art, so Wigmore Hall, the Wallace Collection and Frieze would all be on the list.

Any particular recommendations or hidden gems?

I have to walk down Marylebone High Street with blinkers on, there are too many good clothes stores.

It’s not so much a hidden gem, but I love the sandwiches at Orrery Epicerie… enjoyed in Marylebone Gardens opposite, preferably with a book from Daunt.

If you could describe the Harley Street area in three words, what would they be?

My Monzo is saying: “Big mistake, huge!”

But my comms brain is saying: big-hearted healthcare community.