VP, Ruder Finn
One of the perks of working in PR is the ability to get out of the office for face-to-face meetings.
Maryann Cammarata, 28, a VP in Ruder Finn's corporate branding group, had that chance recently when she went to Zambia to meet some of the people who have been affected by the malaria drugs produced by her client Novartis. Cammarata visited four health clinics in rural villages where patients underwent video interviews and took advertising photos. At one point, Cammarata observed a baby that was laughing and playing after just 48 hours of treatment.
"I'm appreciative that I work on a corporate campaign that makes products that are so widespread," says Cammarata. "I get to know their patient therapies and the patients they help around the world."
The appreciation runs both ways.
"She's very personable and people enjoy working with her," says Sheldon Jones, VP of corporate communications at Novartis North America. Jones says Cammarata is "definitely wise beyond her years," which she demonstrates with her honesty, transparency, and self-expression.
Prior to Ruder Finn, Cammarata handled the PR and internal relations at her alma mater, Hofstra University and the marketing research and merchandising for 1-800-FLOWERS. She is able to draw a parallel between her work at the university and her current pharmaceutical client.
"The issues vary, but [the work is about] maintaining the reputation of the client," said Cammarata. "It is the trust and reputation that builds the business, and I really like having a hand in that."
Cammarata began at Ruder Finn in 2000 as an assistant account executive and began working on the Novartis campaign when the agency did, in 2001. Cammarata has moved up the ranks as the campaign progressed. Executives at Ruder Finn entrusted Cammarata with oversight of the Novartis campaign, its most visible account, in 2004.
"It was an awareness campaign for Novartis," said Cammarata. "As it grew and the public's understanding of Novartis grew, my understanding grew."
Cammarata has managed the development of a favorable reputation for the account despite the sometimes negative perception of the pharmaceutical industry, and the Swiss company's initial lack of name recognition in the US. Novartis consistently draws high awareness numbers with key audiences as a result of Cammarata's handling of a comprehensive media program, including a well-regarded radio ad campaign. And the company has been mentioned on the most admired company lists in Barron's, Fortune, and Financial Times.
"The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are complex," said Jones. "They require someone to take a special interest and take time to understand what the company is all about in order to develop the level of understanding."
Jones adds that Cammarata's accessibility is an asset.
"The one thing about Maryann is you can reach her at any time," said. "And when you do reach her, she does not have to be sitting at her desk to respond to what you're calling about."
Once her work was done in Africa, Cammarata extended her stay four days to take a safari. For once, she was inaccessible.
"It really did feel like a vacation," she said. "You have no connection to anything."