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PHRMA’s CCO – Leading an Association’s Communications

Christian Clymer, VP of Public Affairs and Communications at PhRMA discusses navigating change.

Christian Clymer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spoke with Doug Simon at the PR Summit DC about PhRMA’s new Go Boldly campaign and the keys to effective communications leadership at a large association.

 

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

DOUG SIMON: Hi, I’m Doug Simon, CEO at D S Simon Media, with Christian Clymer. He’s Vice President, Public Affairs of PhRMA and he just spoke at PR Summit DC about the changing role of the chief communications officer. Thanks so much for being with us.

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Thanks for having me.

DOUG SIMON: Great. So obviously everything’s changing, but what’s new?

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Well, I mean everything’s changing because everything’s new. I mean we live in an environment that moves at such a fast pace, on so many different fronts, in so many different channels, that the role of a communicator has kind of turned from being someone who picks up the phone and responds to calls to someone who’s more of kind of a battlefield general, right?

How do I move these different pieces around? How do I make sure that I’m accomplishing against my goals? And how do I make sure that each piece on the board is moving toward that goal? And then, in the end, the most important part, how do I measure that so that I can be– so that I can show my success or so that I can be ensured that I’m successful or that I need to change my path? So it’s changed a lot.

DOUG SIMON: Yeah. Now you have 30 key members approximately. So how do you navigate sometimes when they have different interests, and there’s so much around the topic of health, health care, and the role of PhRMA in that?

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Yeah. I mean the way I usually work with that is so many people approach that by getting a list of the things that you can do. I start with the list of the things that we can. And we create consensus around those things that we can do, and then you create trust within the different parties, and then you grow that trust outward.

And that gives you a lot of flexibility to do things because once you show success and you show that you’re worthy of that trust, it gives you a lot of opportunities to do more down the road.

DOUG SIMON: So it sounds like some parts of that job are aligned with being a preschool teacher with a large group being able to pull them together. Are there specific programs that you’re looking to advance now that are sort of on the agenda and how are you approaching them?

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Well, I think our biggest program that we’ve got is our Go Boldly campaign. And that is a large advertising campaign to really balance the narrative around our industry.

We were tired of hearing the story that we didn’t feel reflected who the people that work in this industry really are. And so we wanted to make sure that we were out there telling the story that we know to be true about these amazing men and women that are dedicated to patients and finding cures for the scariest things in their lives.

And so that’s the biggest part. But then it’s also about turning that into a campaign that brings it off of television, and brings it off of the screen, and brings it to life in communities and through a public affairs campaign where we’re not just talking the talk, we’re also walking the walk.

DOUG SIMON: And it’s been a number of years since you’ve advertised on television. Obviously, TV still carries a lot of weight and can be effectively used as a jumping off point.

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Well, that’s absolutely right. I mean it’s a great place to start a conversation, but then we want people to see the ad. We want them to come to a website. We want them to experience the depth of information there. And we want them to learn more, and more, and more about our industry because we feel that the more they learn about the work that we’re doing, the more they’re going to appreciate what we’re doing.

DOUG SIMON: If you just had one piece of advice, as we wrap up, for someone who’s going to be leading the communications at a major association that touches so many American lives, what would you tell them?

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Well, I think it’s, be ready for anything. Be ready for anything, and learn to say yes a lot because no just isn’t in the vocabulary of somebody who is effective in this role. It’s always yes I can do that, yes we can accomplish that, and together we can do great things.

DOUG SIMON: That’s awesome. Then you have to figure out how to get it done and deliver.

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Right. Absolutely. And that’s you got to put your money where your mouth is.

DOUG SIMON: Cool. Thanks so much for putting your money where our mouth is right now. Great to talk to you.

CHRISTIAN CLYMER: Thank you.