Rifah is a healthcare digital communications specialist with a keen interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, and Vaccine Hesitancy. She graduated with a BA in Archaeology from Cardiff University and her professional experience includes working within an infused water start-up, global pharmaceuticals, and an innovative organisation funded by the NHS.
Rifah is ambitious, data-driven, and people-orientated. Her passion lies in making a difference in people’s lives by communicating facts.
Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
British Pakistani, born in Cambridge
How did you get into PR/communications?
After graduating in Archaeology, which is a unique and perhaps surprising course for many, I naturally moved into communications. My interest in communications was somewhat built during my time at university, an example being an excavation project at Çatalhöyük, Turkey, where I spent countless hours in the archaeobotanical lab interviewing leading professors on how prehistoric seeds shaped the modern-day diet. I have always wanted to help people in a meaningful way and Healthcare comms fit the bill.
I started her career in social media and eventually moved on to GSK’s Global Vaccine division where my time was spent between London and Brussels in the global digital communications division.
I credit this move as the real start of her career. Since then I have moved to Europe’s largest life science bubble, Cambridge, and here I’ve have learned about regional innovation within the NHS through public engagement and the role that Big Data and Machine Learning has on our future.
What do you love about your job?
Promoting innovative, life-changing, and global ideas that improve patient care with a basis of scientific literature. I love having the opportunity to bring together specialists to help solve public health issues.
What are you most proud of?
On a very personal note, a relative died in Pakistan due to vaccine hesitancy.
As a result, I want to highlight patient stories. Patients are not numbers. They are people. In recent years, vaccine hesitancy has spiked. Now, in a world beset by the coronavirus, it seems that vaccine hesitancy is causing ever more serious global pandemics.
My role at GSK’s global external communications vaccine division allowed me to understand the impact that behavioural sociology has on challenging the way that people think. I worked on the pharmaceutical industry’s very first large-scale social media campaign to spread vaccine awareness and reaching over a million followers.
Professionally I learned a lot, and personally, it closed a door on a journey I hadn’t realised I was on and reminded me of a lesson. In its rawest form, healthcare PR has the power to help improve and even save lives.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
As cliché as it sounds, be kinder to myself. I let myself acknowledge my mistakes to use it as a valuable lesson to grow and move on. Moral of the story: ambition is great, but mistakes make us grow.
Who are your favourite people in PR/comms and why?
Conroy Boxhill’s story is captivating. Conroy is a Jamaican American immigrant who worked his way up the agency ladder and his advice on leadership inspires me. He taught me that titles do not equate to leadership, and leadership can be seen among peer groups, project teams, and organisations.
What skill do you think every PR/comms person has to nail?
Perseverance and the ability to react to situations quickly as PR/comms is an everchanging, fast-moving industry particularly when there is a deadline.
What is your favourite social network and why?
LinkedIn. I like being in touch with the industry, and to me, it’s the best platform to create a discussion. Admittedly LinkedIn is not the most creative, but it is the most functional.
What’s your favourite podcast and why?
Wake me up, morning mindfulness, meditation, and motivation. I’ve always found it hard to get out of bed in the mornings, and this podcast is a great way to wake up in a clear and calm way. I’ve listened to every episode and highly recommend it!
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Nesrine Malik, a columnist for the guardian is my favourite journalist. Her book, we need new stories is a must read. She came to the UK in her mid-20s from her childhood in the Middle East and North Africa. Nesrine grew up in a traditional family and when she arrived in England realised what she had run away from was in the UK in slightly insidious ways. This includes how freedom of speech, political correctness, and identity are misunderstood today.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I found it while reading Robert H Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do! It contains the nugget of wisdom, “Never let the problem become the excuse”. I don’t find challenges a barrier to future success, in fact, they are stepping stones to becoming a better person. This advice helps me put ‘the problem’ into perspective and let go of any excuses.
How would you describe 2020 in one word?
Still. Aside from the obvious challenges that 2020 has brought, it is a moment of reflection.
Who is your coronavirus comms hero and why?
Colonel Tom, he raised £30,000,000 for the NHS by his 100th birthday. He single handily also raised spirits during the pandemic by walking 100 laps of his garden before his big birthday.
Finally… Which brand impressed you with their response to Black Lives Matter and why?
Netflix has impressed me. They have launched a new curated list dedicated to Black Lives Matter to help give a platform to black storytellers and highlight stories amid the movement. Among these 13th is a must-watch documentary as it highlights the incarceration of African Americans and the prison boom through activists, scholars, and politicians.