AstraZeneca appoints global media relations chief for oncology

Pharma multinational AstraZeneca has hired Chris Calland as global director of media relations for its oncology portfolio, PRWeek has learned.

Chris Calland is a specialist in public affairs, crisis comms and reputation
Chris Calland is a specialist in public affairs, crisis comms and reputation

Chris Calland, a corporate reputation and public affairs specialist, joins AstraZeneca from Sapience Communications, where he was a director.

The pharmaceuticals and biotech company has risen to become an unlikely household name during the coronavirus pandemic due to its part in the development of a vaccine to combat COVID-19.

The increased prominence of AstraZeneca in the public realm has provided what Julia Bainbridge, head of Freuds’ health and behaviour change unit, previously described as a “halo effect” for the whole sector.

However, the reputational uplift for the sector comes at the price of increased scrutiny from the media and the public.

Bainbridge warned pharma firms not to squander the window of opportunity and to adjust how they communicate with the public to become more “meaningful and relevant” to people’s lives.

While still at Sapience, Calland explained how company chief executives should communicate with the public after lockdown restrictions came to an end.

He said company leaders should “over-communicate” with the public in order not to leave a vacuum for others to fill and should also use staff feedback channels as “early warning systems” for trouble on the horizon.

And speaking earlier this year, Calland said the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the easing of restrictions heralded "huge challenges" for corporate comms and issues specialists.

Career path

Calland began his comms career at public affairs and media relations agency PLMR before joining Hanover Communications.

He was then briefly at several agencies, including Freuds, as associate director, and Ogilvy UK, as head of crisis and issues.

Calland was contacted by PRWeek regarding his new role but had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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