International Women’s Day 2024: An Interview with Elaine Zandi

Mar 8, 2024

International Women’s Day 2024: An Interview with Elaine Zandi

Elaine Zandi is one of the three founders of Hanson Zandi. Armed with a master’s in pharmacology, she entered the world of pharma, initially as a medical rep and then product manager. She gained a Chartered Institute of Marketing diploma before becoming a medical copywriter. She was Hanson Zandi’s Creative Director and when Freddie Hanson retired in 2007, she became the Managing Director.

To celebrate the inspirational female leaders at Hanson Zandi, we sat down with Elaine Zandi, our founder and omnichannel director, to discuss her career as an entrepreneur in healthcare communications and showcase her achievements at Hanson Zandi.

1. How did you get to where you are now?
There are three key factors which determined my path in life. The first is serendipity. The second is hard work combined with tenacity and the third is support. I was lucky that I had the opportunity to start a business. I love the work I do – so working hard comes naturally. The adage of ‘the harder you work – the more luck you have’ is true and Hanson Zandi made a profit in its first year and enjoyed success thereafter. Finally, I have been supported all the way. My husband Nader has been a rock and encouraged me throughout the journey. So have my two daughters and my parents before them.

2. Can you share the challenges you have faced when starting a business and how you navigated them?

Unless you are independently wealthy, financial backing is frequently a major challenge when starting a business. Despite knocking on the door of all the major money lenders and having an incredibly impressive business plan (well we thought it was) – no one was prepared to finance an advertising agency start-up. Leaving paid employment, funding a business and taking on a 25 year lease for the office was a huge commitment. Thankfully long leases are a thing of the past – but starting an agency is still a risky business.

3. What is your proudest achievement?

Looking back, my proudest achievement was when we won our first global account following a pitch against three corporate agencies. I was also over the moon on the two occasions we won Gold at the PM Society Adverting Awards. And I’ll just sneak in another quick one – Hanson Zandi is 39 years old this year!

4. This year’s theme is ‘Inspire Inclusion’, what does this mean to you?

Gender equality is something I’m passionate about. My first ad agency had The Sun’s page 3 topless glamour models adorning the walls and an official smut club on Thursdays after work. Things have changed, but we still have far to travel. Hanson Zandi offers a working environment that both welcomes and celebrates varying identities. What ‘Inspire Inclusion’ means to me is an appreciation of the individual differences that people embody and recognition of the value that represents, whilst remembering Jo Cox’s immortal line “We have far more in common than that which divides us.”

5. What is one message you would give to women starting a career in healthcare communications?

Be yourself. Be positive. Know your onions. Seize every opportunity. Never be subservient to anyone. Never iron a man’s shirt. And remember that every failure presents a future opportunity. In my experience there is nothing holding women back in the world of healthcare communications. Yes, I know that’s more than one message but ‘I always challenge the brief.’