PR Summit, Day 1, Keynote and Panel Discussion

The Public Relations & Communications Summit Day 1 Keynote Address was made by Jeffrey Winton, Vice President and Head, Global Communications, Eli Lilly and Co., titled, “Globalization of Communications in the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industries.”

[Disclosure: summaries are my own interpretations based on notes taken during the session, not to be taken as verbatim quotes. Notes and opinions provided, as always on this blog, are my own and not necessarily my employers’.]

Following a little background on his company and himself, Jeff noted that many of the major players got ‘lost’ during the boom and pharma merger craze, but now are again focused on the core business and fundamental areas they know and grew from.

When he arrived at Lilly from Pharmacia, he noted that Lilly had moved to a model using business units with a reasonable amount of autonomy, which added a lot of complexity, and now they are trying to reign some of that autonomy back for more consistency and streamlining operations, which means realignments and job cuts.

They were faced with compounding circumstances: new CEO, products going off patent, changing landscape, and a new corporate five year plan.

From a communications standpoint, he was implementing a new approach around five Centers of Excellence: Communications, Government Affairs, Public Policy, Social Responsibility, Advocacy, and PR.

Emphasized the need for companies who do good, to not be afraid to tell the story, and despite knowing this is not bad, some companies still find it hard to do.

Implemented Six Sigma and noted that Lilly was very good at tactical implementation, but not so much with big picture strategy.

Following series of reviews and Six Sigma process found that people were glad to be engaged with the process, wanted strategic direction, not toolkits, employee engagement assistance was a big challenge globally, and a defined strategy with clear roles and responsibilities were missing (note this review was specific to global communications).

Now they conduct monthly town halls, twice in one day to accommodate for time zone disparity, hold an annual summit, conduct special topical webinars, and conduct 1 to 1 calls as much as possible.

Emphasized the need to have stakeholders buy-in and have the support of senior leadership.

Late in his remarks he noted that the reduced news cycle, changing health economics, global market shift, reputation risk, one needs a strategy as a bunch of tactics won’t suffice.

The panel, comprised of Cathy Cantone, Director, GHH Communications, Merck, Kate O’Connor, Executive Director, Public Relations, Boehringher Ingelheim, and Joff Masukawa, Vice President, Global Government Relations and Public Policy, Shire, joined Jeff for a discussion.

Each emphasized the importance of telling a story, because it helps people understand the big picture.

Joff specifically noted a partnership Shire had with two universities on the long term effect of ADHD on America. The study addressed areas like the impact of non-treatment has on health, economy, education, relationships, crime, and other areas. The findings were presented to raise awareness, foster discussion, and potentially impact policy.

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