Marian Salzman | Influence 100
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Marian Salzman 

SVP, Global Communications 
PMI
Switzerland

 

 

 In 2018, award-winning communicator and trendspotter 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 to accelerate an end to cigarettes.

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 17 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?
I think the launch of Giving Tuesday gave personal philanthropy a boost and I watched individual companies use this special day to draw closer to its customers with smart offers and engaged storytelling/story-doing.

What are the comms industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
How can communicators prove they have the stamina and guts to confront the unpleasantness of today's realities? This is a time for no spin, more do, and I think there is a big upside for those who act boldly and with empathy. But for those who wait it out, I think there will be no return: the pace will be faster, the need to be always on even more pronounced and the flab in budgets will be missing for now and forever.

What have you most admired about this industry in 2020?
The people who have pushed scientific evidence and facts forward even when these findings are unpopular. Whoever works with Dr. Fauci is my hero.

What has most disappointed you about this industry in 2020?
When Covid got going, it seems like ideas often stopped flowing; panic and cautiousness (and in fairness economic reality) has paralyzed good thinking folks.

How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
By working on European time whether I am in the US or in Switzerland, eating one big meal a day, and studying endlessly through my courses in government at Johns Hopkins University, where I have just started an online master's degree.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
Becoming.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
Studying while I waited out Covid and got back to my Airbnb business in the desert of the American Southwest.

Sum up 2020 in one word.
Around-the-clock.