Highland Marketing: A vision of the future of healthtech from a house by the loch

If ever there was a time for an integrated approach to the provision of health technology to support the NHS, it’s now.

From a lochside location in rural Stirling, Highland Marketing has been able to provide its customary first class service to clients globally without skipping a beat during COVID-19 lockdowns thanks to Stirling’s investment in superfast broadband.

Highland Marketing is a full-service agency for health technology marketing, PR and communications run by Susan and Mark Venables from their hideaway home in Balquhidder. Dedicated to supporting the diffusion and adoption of innovation across health and social care for over 20 years Highland Marketing has built a reputation as the go-to agency in this very specific market.

Highland marketing started in 2002 when Susan identified an opportunity for an agency focussed on delivering first class marketing, communications and content as an integrated service to companies supplying technology to the NHS. She had seen first-hand the way agencies fought over the same budget pool, competing for websites, PR and branding and she felt strongly that this way of working didn’t have the interests of customer, often the NHS, at heart. 

Highland Marketing now supports companies of varying sizes from starts ups, SMEs right up multi-national billion dollar suppliers providing technology, systems and expertise predominantly to the NHS. In this way they create brand awareness, content, social media, and that allows the NHS to provide more joined up care for patients.

Having already made the move to their dream home in Balquhidder long before COVID-19 forced us all to learn how to work at home Mark and Susan knew that with the right broadband connection, they could operate successfully from home, without compromising the service to clients, at the same time creating a more sustainable way of living and working.

Prior to COVID-19 Susan and Mark were each averaging 3 weeks out of every 4 in London to work with their national and international clients on a range of NHS technology projects. Each visit to London was 900 miles round trip, so as well as clocking up a lot of road and air miles, it was a huge drain on their time. They knew that the biggest enabler to running the business without having to travel so much had to be down to connectivity. 

As one of 4 directors of the Balquhidder Community Broadband CIC, Mark shared its vision to provide the whole community with superfast broadband, that would allow everyone in the area to benefit. The project took several years to fulfil, as well as a huge commitment from all volunteers. Set to digging holes, pulling cable and providing drive and expertise, Mark’s involvement was wholehearted, even when Highland Marketing’s workload took off to such an extent it allowed him less time to participate.

“Some days we needed to pull through as much as 2-3 km of cabling to get from one pit to another between clusters of properties and that requires an army of people. It’s not an easy job. Working together like this, there’s no doubt it’s brought people together. This particular project gained interest and impetus as the benefits of ultrafast broadband being available to the entire community were so tangible and it meant that everyone gave time and expertise and got their hands dirty!”

Mark Venables, CEO Highland Marketing

Mark firmly believes that health technology could be invaluable in removing some of the burdens of the NHS while allowing individuals to lead healthier lives.

“The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families and on the economy has been considerable, but the NHS response has seen a significant increase in the uptake of technology. The roll-out of remote working, virtual clinics, and systems to support patients has encouraged everyone to take digital progress far more seriously.”

Highland Marketing has a specialist workforce, and working from home like this allows each member of the team to provide their expertise to clients from their own homes.   

“We have been able to take on new clients in response to COVID-19, while continuing to work hard to put our existing clients’ products and services in front of the people who need them, and shared news with the media and broadcasters who want to tell positive stories about the benefits being delivered across health and social care.”

Mark said “ It was an interesting journey to get here and Stirling Council has been absolutely fantastic in helping make the project happen. When I moved to the area, connectivity was like two tin cans and a wet piece of string – if more than 2 crows were sitting on line or it was raining, the service just dropped. I don’t see how the business could have progressed, or the community flourished the way it has without Stirling Council’s investment in Balquhidder Community Broadband

The support from the community has been incredible, and I feel privileged to have been part of bringing such a great broadband service to the Glen. This work was all in place before COVID-19 loomed over us, and it’s made such a difference to everyone in Balquhidder. Whether it was children accessing online lessons, families communicating across the miles, or businesses with a global network like ours the availability of ultrafast broadband in Balquhidder has been invaluable.”