Fake It Until You Make It

I’ve read quite a few articles recently about Imposter Syndrome, something that apparently many women in particular suffer from. The theory is that regardless of how successful you are, on the inside you regard yourself as something of a fraud – even though to the outside world you seem to be a high-flyer.  It is rooted in low self-esteem, and it can get worse the more successful you become, and the more you mix with other talented individuals.

It’s all about comparing yourself with others and finding yourself wanting – not a pleasant place to be.  Instead of being able to accept that you might, just possibly, be good at what you do, Imposter Syndrome means that you tell yourself that no matter what you achieve, those achievements are somehow fraudulent compared to those of others.

Well, I’d like to propose a different approach. How about, instead of deciding you’re successful despite your shortcomings, why not just decide to be successful and then worry about whether or not you deserve to be afterwards. In short, I’m recommending the “Fake it until you Make it” approach. Act as if you are already a winner, already on the path to success and soon enough you probably will be.

Last year I went to a masterclass on how to write a bestseller, run by The Guardian. One of the speakers was Clare Mackintosh, whose first novel “I Let You Go” hit the bestseller lists right off the bat. I’m over simplifying this, obviously, but she talked about how she’d essentially just “decided” that she was going to be a writer, quit her job and then got herself work as a freelance journalist by telling editors that she was already working as a freelance.  What Clare did was to become a writer through the power of living a writer’s life, rather than wait for someone else to tell her that she was one.  I found her really inspiring because of the clarity of her vision and the decisiveness of the actions she took. Also, her books are incredibly well written and definitely worth reading.

When my business partner and I set up our own communications agency, we didn’t agonise for months about whether or not we would be successful, we got stuck in and acted as though we were already there. That confidence meant that clients were able to trust that we’d deliver, right from the off and I am sure was a huge part of our ultimate success. We used to talk about it being our “field of dreams” strategy – you know, if you build it, they will come (and they did…).

I know this sounds obvious, but if you’re feeling like an imposter, try not to give in to the self-doubt. When you’re not feeling confident, try acting as though you are until you’ve developed the skills and tools you need for that confidence to be real.  You’d be surprised how quickly that can happen.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that we are all of us to one extent or another playing roles that we feel are expected of us, so spend your energy making sure you’re performing with confidence instead of agonising about what others might think.  It’s like wearing a dress that you secretly think is a bit too short. Style it out and nobody will know that you’re worried it’s too short, they’ll just be wowed by how fabulous you look.

WIREDHealth – a few observations

Last week’s #WIREDHealth event was notable for lots of reasons, but one thing in particular stood out to me and that was the number of strong female speakers. No, it wasn’t a 50/50 gender balanced panel, but it seemed to me that the organisers had gone out of their way to make sure that women in STEM leadership roles were well represented. It’s a bit of a shame that so many of the female speakers were from the US, but then I guess WIRED’s remit is international so I’ll forgive them that.

There are some great summaries already available online that’ll give you a good guide on the overall content of the meeting, but I wanted to share some of the stand-outs for me from the main stage of the programme.

Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England gave a compelling presentation about Genomics and its practical applications. “Data driven medicine,” she said, “is all about how we map and understand individual genomic alterations and develop highly personalised treatments.” She highlighted the work of Genomics England and the 100,000 Genomes Project, currently recruiting patients through 13 NHS Genomic Medicine Centres across the country. When what you see of the NHS on a day to day basis are the challenges of its creaking GP and A&E services, it’s good to be reminded of how it is supporting incredible breakthroughs in a novel, entrepreneurial way.

I loved Marko Ahtisaari from the Sync Project for making the audience sit, close their eyes and listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons ‘updated’ by Max Richter as his opener to a fascinating presentation on the potential for music as precision medicine. And I’d urge you all to check out unwind.ai to get a glimpse of the future – and an opportunity to expand their research database.

Jessica Mega from Verily (part of Alphabet, parent company of Google) set out a conceptual overview for what Verily is doing with all the vast volumes of data out there – quite simply put, it’s all about collecting, organising and activating. She made a pleasant contrast in her informed, elegant style to the energetic, enthusiastic Elizabeth Parrish from BioViva Science, who terrified the life out of me with her desire to have us all join the revolution and get our genes tweaked. Mind you, you really can’t knock someone who is so committed to the cause that she’ll take two gene therapies herself.

The best speaker for my money though was Daisy Robinton from Harvard, who took what was extremely complicated scientific narrative around CRISPR, one of the great discoveries of 2015, and made it understandable to the lay person. It raises some uncomfortable questions about gene editing and its ethical application in the future, mindblowing stuff. And no, don’t ask me to explain it to you because I can’t. You really needed to be there. Or of course you could go to www.wired.co.uk and have a poke around…

I came away feeling that there was so much more to learn, having met some fascinating people and had my horizons expanded about at least part of the future of health and technology. What’s really exciting though, is how much of what was presented is already in play – we’re not talking about possible futures, but actual real-world developments. Heady times.

Writing Awards Entries? A Few Pointers

It’s Monday March 6th, and I’m willing to guess that in many healthcare communications businesses, minds are being concentrated on final drafts of Communiqué Awards entries. Given that there are only a few days to go before the deadline (9 March, with a late entry deadline of 16 March in case you’re really struggling to get them written), that seems reasonable. As the Chair of the Judges for the 2017 Communiqué Awards, I thought I’d share a few pointers based on my experience both as an entrant and as a judge. Hopefully these will also apply for other awards schemes.

Probably the first and most important thing to do is to follow the entry guidelines – because they are designed to help the judges to make fair comparisons between work which can vary hugely in scope, budget and approach. We score against the criteria which are provided to you, so make sure you’re giving us something to judge you on against each one that’s listed.

Do remember that each judge is reviewing entries on top of their day job, often after a long day in the office or over a weekend, so make it easy for us to spot what’s great about the work you’re submitting. Think carefully about layout. Consider using tables to show how you met your objectives (which must be SMART) and make sure you are clear in your own mind about the difference between objectives, strategy and tactics. Yes, I know that sounds really obvious, but you’d be surprised…

Tell us a story – the best award entries aren’t just a collection of facts and figures, they bring the work to life, giving context, colour and texture to the work. If you encountered significant challenges along the way, tell us about them and how you overcame them. Likewise, if serendipity played a part then acknowledge it. For example, many years ago, a well-known author spotted an article off the back of a campaign we’d run about access to funding for a new cancer drug, got in touch and offered to pay for a course of treatment for a particular patient, which then resulted in another huge tranche of press coverage. Yes, we (and much more importantly, the patient) were lucky, but it was award-winning because we knew how to effectively maximise that unexpected opportunity.

Get a fresh pair of eyes on your entry, preferably someone who wasn’t involved in the campaign. They will invariably spot something you’ve missed – perhaps a question they ask will highlight something you’ve failed to include that might be the one thing which makes a judge realise how great the work is. Make sure that you’ve checked with the client that they’re happy with what you’re going to say – and that where their own internal process require it, your entry has been ABPI approved. Bear in mind that the executive summary will be in the public domain, and that all the judges sign strict confidentiality agreements before they see a single entry.

Write, edit, rewrite, repeat.  The process of writing should always be an iterative one, and award entries in particular really benefit from this approach. Your first draft will always be too long, the sentences too wordy and the narrative somewhat jumbled (in my experience anyway) – but at least you’ve got the salient facts down on paper. As you refine it, you’ll add information you’ve forgotten, take out what’s superfluous and hopefully, hone your language so that it’s crisp and clear. Remember, your goal is to make it easy for the judges to love your work.

Finally, be honest with yourself about why you think your work should win an award. Sometimes it’s because it’s an exemplar of its kind – a well put-together, well-executed programme that achieves solid results, and there are campaigns like that which (deservedly) win every year. Don’t rule something out just because it’s not earth-shatteringly innovative – but do think hard about how the work justifies its place in an awards programme.  And if you have got something that you think’s really new, tell us why it’s different and why that should matter to the judges.

Last but not least, focus your efforts on that two-page entry, because if it doesn’t tell the judges why the work is a winner, all of the supporting materials in the world won’t make a blind bit of difference. Don’t hold anything back on the basis we’ll be wowed when we see it on judging day – it helps to have a great backup package, but it’s your two-pager that has to do the heavy lifting.

Good luck!