Kara’s Story

Who wants to do the classroom display?

“Me, me, me!” – up my hand would go, fingers crossed Mr Dixon would pick 11-year-old me (again) to create the Year 6 display. Reams of poster paper, meticulous to the millimetre for my margins, my adoration of classroom display creation was rivalled only by my love of writing letters to imaginary people.

By the time I got to high school, I realised sitting in German, competing with my mates on who could do the best impressions of Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura, was far more interesting than letter writing or listening to Frau Thwaite. I managed to get some work done though.

For a while there, I saw myself as a future midwife (it may have been the mention of crowning, or perhaps that umbilical cords were as tough as gristle). Whatever it was, it pretty quickly changed my mind. And so interior design it was!

Skipping uni to learn on the job

The college years – A-level English, media studies, business studies and art and design – big baggy jeans, the massive art case and a mobile phone that rivalled both in size. Really wished I’d saved those trousers, they’re back in fashion again!

I’d wear them to my 6-month work experience placement at my local shopping centre where with both feet, I firmly jumped into marketing – the perfect mix of writing and design. I loved it, and as it turns out, they loved my work – I bagged a full-time job with them after college and did my training to become an associate of The Chartered Institute of Marketing. Then it was off for a spin as marketing manager at Xscape in Castleford. 

Oh, and I must give a shoutout to my time before that working in a bingo hall and Morrisons. Show me someone who’s survived six months in retail, and I’ll show you someone who’s worthy of an honours degree in customer placation (experience that pays well when faced with patients without patience).

Trapped by the NHS

My first job in the NHS was in the comms department at Barnsley Primary Care Trust, not long after which I moved over the road to Barnsley Hospital. 

That’s where I realised that marketing and comms – like a UTI and antibiotics – were perfect partners. I was hooked on how the right combination – words, visuals, medium – wasn’t just capable of educating, but of prompting a person to take action.

Many interim CCG comms contracts later (I loved the variety, much like a locum) and a few more spins over in marketing for a luxury retirement village and independent hospital provider, I was sold – signed, sealed, delivered – I was determined to help people on the frontline who were struggling with comms that cut through and meant something to local people. 

My best friend convinced me that I had something that primary care needed. Yet I put it off for months. They already knew how to do this stuff, right? Why would they pay me to do it for them? Imposter syndrome, yep.

Nowadays, I no longer find myself having to ‘sell’ comms like I used to. The pandemic really put healthcare communications on a pedestal – profile raised, many now realise exactly what carefully crafted comms can do for them.

The experiences that led me here mean that I can bring so much to the table for my primary care clients. And I love spending my days tackling comms conundrums, with the help and sanity of the fabulous Gemma, Pip and associates I know and work with so well.