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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 Jacek Olczak, 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 was previously chief marketing officer at Porter Novelli and JWT Worldwide and the chief strategic officer at Euro RSCG Worldwide (Havas Creative). Salzman is the author of 17 books, including Buzz, the first business book on buzz marketing, and her latest The New Megatrends: Seeing Clearly In The Age of Disruption.
Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
We successfully managed the transition from a respected and beloved CEO to his successor our COO, seamlessly, with a plan that incorporated internal and external engagement at every touch point.
What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
People are tired of reinvention, and yet the pace of change in the corporate universe demands an always on and positive approach to whatever happens next, be it planned or completely unexpected.
What have you most admired about the communications industry over the past year, and what has disappointed you?
The rise of editorial sponsorships without polluting the journalistic integrity of media. This has made earned, owned, paid and civil society all forces the CCO must monitor and tap when and where and how is appropriate.
What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?
Our VP Moira Gilchrist and her team have launched ‘Rethinking Disruption’ [a campaign featuring event engagements and a white paper to disrupt the smoking category and encourage a smoke free future] and it makes me smile; our VP of international communications Tomasso Di Giovanni and his market leaders around the world have rolled it out seamlessly.
How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness over the past year?
I was in chemo and immuno therapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma from October to April, so I would say a focus on getting and being well was ever so basic: protein drinks, floor Pilates with a virtual teacher, our Golden Retrievers during periods of quarantine, and caring and respectful family and friends via text telephone and Zoom.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through the past year or provided inspiration?
I am going to embarrass myself, but reality television and 24/7 news got me through the year by providing me with an escape from my illness and from the everyday projects and pressures of work (I telecommuted throughout my seven months of treatment).
If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
The proud owner and proprietor of a tiny home or a yurt village focused on tourism in the US Southwest.
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