Ten Rising Stars:Ilissa Wood

29,PR manager, Johnson & Johnson

29,PR manager, Johnson & Johnson

Ilissa Wood, a PR manager in Johnson & Johnson's consumer products division, often finds herself with a complicated problem. The brands she represents, which include Band-Aid, K-Y and, Reach floss and toothbrushes, can prove hard to place outside of the health beat in the media due to general squeamishness from reporters and the public.

"Most of the businesses she's been assigned have required her to go down non-mainstream roads, which has not always been easy," says Danielle Devine, J&J consumer products VP of PR and Wood's immediate boss.

Devine cites the creative challenges facing the K-Y product, a feminine lubricant.

"We worked away from the problem of vaginal dryness," Devine says. "The biggest challenge is talking about these subjects and the products that relate to them is that they're often considered taboo among mainstream media," Wood says. "How do you break through that to get people to listen to the story?"

In K-Y's case, Wood came up with the idea to create a booklet highlighting alternative uses for the product to get additional media exposure. The "Modern Girl's Guide, Everyday Uses for K-Y Brand," evolved through close collaboration with K-Y's agency, Euro RSCG Magnet, and garnered the brand plenty of media attention.

"I relish the creativity [of] thinking outside of the box," Woods says.

In addition to the sometimes difficult placement of 18 women's health, oral health, wound care, and sanitary protection brands, Wood also has to work with nine different external agencies. "I work very closely with my agency partners, and I see them as extension of my team," Wood says.

Wood began her PR career with a summer internship at MS&L in the consumer practice. On her first day, she was told to go out to buy a black tie outfit to help with an event for one of the agencies client's biggest launches. She accepted a full-time position at MS&L, and later left to work with beauty clients at a boutique firm.

"After seeing both [large and small agencies], I knew an in-house position would be my next move," Wood says. J&J, a former client, soon approached her.

"Ilissa worked for one of my agencies; I committed the cardinal sin of bringing her onboard [at J&J]," Devine says.

"One of the things I have experienced is that a lot of PR professionals expect to be much further along [then they are], but aren't willing to do the work," Devine says. "There's never been a job too small for her, and that work [ethic] has brought her to where she is today."

Wood concedes that her current role doesn't allow her as much time to make straight pitch calls as she would like, but her main passion remains intact.

"Going in-house, I knew I would continue working in the areas I love most: consumer products, women's health, and beauty," Wood says.

Currently Wood says that J&J approaches the function of advertising and PR separately.

 "But my greatest charge is to work towards changing all that," Wood says. "It's about changing minds and the way they think about public relations as a critical business driver."

The future marketing paradigm and PR's place in it is an important driving factor for Wood. "

I feel like I'm at a crossroads where I can continue on doing things as they where or to break new ground and continue to change the way people do PR within my organization," Wood says.

Devine is convinced Wood will approach the latter. "Everyone in [this industry] struggles with solidifying PR as a critical business driver and part of the marketing mix," says Deville. "She has done an incredible job with that."

As for recreation, Wood is currently learning scuba diving: "It's the only place I can't be reached by my cell or BlackBerry." To return to the list, click here.

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