Cabrey gives a healthy boost to Shire's branding

Matt Cabrey joined Shire Pharmaceuticals four years ago as the corporate communications director when the British biopharma company had just began US expansion.

Matt Cabrey joined Shire Pharmaceuticals four years ago as the corporate communications director when the British biopharma company had just began US expansion.

Shire now has a presence in 23 countries and is considered a leader in treatments for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), gastrointestinal, and human genetic therapies. Its ADHD portfolio includes Adderall XR and Vyvanse.

When Cabrey joined the specialty pharma company, the role of the corporate communications arm was less focused on its global PR strategy and more on building a presence in the greater Philadelphia region.

“I wanted to brand Shire across the greater Philadelphia region as a great company, a good corporate citizen, and a place where people wanted to work,” says Cabrey.

He adds that his personal experience as a Philadelphia native helped, as did his previous work with PNC Financial Services, Keystone Mercy Health Plan, the American Red Cross in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and local talk-radio programs.

Later, when Shire became more established in its Wayne, PA, corporate center, and the greater Philadelphia region, his team was able to leverage the community reputation to help brand the overall Shire image for other audiences.

“My role is bit more focused, a bit more niche,” says Cabrey, whose tasks center around media relations, internal communications, and community relations with a focus on the specialty pharma side.

When there is an issue relating to the ADHD or gastrointestinal portfolios, he works with the brand teams to develop a media strategy.

“If there is an issue potentially developing, I'll be part of the team to [work on] key messages and the FAQ document,” he says. “If we anticipate a call from the media around a potentially challenging issue, the brand team won't respond to it. Corporate communications will.”

In the next few years, the industry will face patent expirations, drying pipelines, and an overall shift in how consumers and government view and utilize the pharma industry. The focus, now, is about positioning Shire to weather these changes.

Last September, Cabrey implemented an internal branding initiative, the first of its kind for the company. Titled “Shire: to be as brave as the people we help,” the initiative is part of a long-term effort to reach company goals set for 2015. The communications team distributed a handbook and filmed employee stories of bravery that were avail-able on the internal server.

“I was cynical,” he says. “I said, ‘We run the risk here of having a cynical reaction from employees. It's soft. It's fluffy.'”

But, the campaign was successful, and now Cabrey is eyeing the branding effort for an external campaign. However, it will not be used as a business or news message.

“[Cabrey] can tell [our] story,” says Shire's corporate communications manager Jessica Cotrone. “It's not the easiest story to tell... He's an example of what corporate communications is to an organization.”

Cabrey remains excited that he gets to “help shape the image of an organization” and that he gets “a seat at the table with the top decision-makers to provide perspective and guidance on issues that could potentially impact [Shire's] success.”
Corporate comms director, Shire Pharmaceuticals

VP of corporate comms, PNC Financial Services

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