Marian Salzman | Influence 100

Marian Salzman

Senior Vice President, Global Communications



In 2018, award-winning communicator Marian Salzman left agency life – including a decade as CEO of Havas PR North America – moved to Switzerland and embarked on her greatest challenge to date: heading global communications at Philip Morris International (PMI) as it embarked on its journey to a smoke-free future. Charged with developing a multilayered communications program to accelerate PMI's vision, Salzman is forging alliances with NGOs, advocacy groups and regulators and other parties. 

She’s also made bold strategic moves to transform the function itself and how it sits within the company. Her goal is to reintroduce PMI into, as she puts it, “civilized society” and engage that society in meaningful conversations about the future of tobacco. Reporting directly to global CEO André Calantzopoulos, she directly oversees almost 100 communications professionals on three continents, who are responsible for media relations, scientific engagement, content development, crisis management, internal communications, sponsorships and more.

At Havas, Salzman chaired its global PR Collective, where she reshaped creative output. She also served on the Havas Worldwide general managers group and as co-chairman of the company's first international steering committee for its social media assets. She was previously chief marketing officer at Porter Novelli and JWT Worldwide and the chief strategic officer at Euro RSCG Worldwide (Havas Creative). Her most famous consumer campaign was the launch of “metrosexual” to create a marketplace for SABMiller’s Peroni, which became the word of the year in 2003. Salzman is the author of 16 books, including Buzz, the first business book on buzz marketing, and her latest: Agile PR: Expert Messaging in a Hyper-Connected, Always-on World.

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
The arrival of metrosexual mania in 2003-2004 created intense interest in men's marketing and allowed us new segmentations to communicate with and market to adult men.

What do you love about this industry?
My biggest love is the relevance: what we do makes news, and news shapes opinions and forces actions. By working in communications we get to watch change from the front row, and to help create change via the messages we lob into and coax through the zeitgeist.

What most frustrates you about this industry?
PR speak, the jargon, and the spin (and even worse, the reputation of the industry as being spin masters). We do so much steak and we end up hurting ourselves with the sizzle we bundle with the meal.

What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities?
Recruiting, hiring, training and retaining the best people; keeping people in the business when there are so many other related ways to earn a living. The added pressure of always on, 24/7/365 means that we need to get out there and sell people to come and join us based on the brainfood we can serve them. We also need to ensure equal pay throughout the business.

How do you relax or change pace when you're not at work?
Golden retrievers, reality TV, bowls of soup, and freshwater fishing.

Can you share a book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches a valuable lesson about PR?
Became obsessed with Netflix's Shtisels because it woke me up to the range in reality TV (and gave me a contrast to shows like First Dates and Love It or List It which are so much more consumer-focused). I live for big insights and compelling narratives and I found one with Shtisel.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
An AirBnB entrepreneur welcoming guests in and blowing their minds with quirky houses and great local experiences in Tucson, Arizona (a long way from Lausanne, Switzerland).