Profile: Miranda Kavanagh, Pfizer - The other side of the PR fence/Miranda Kavanagh adds her own brand of PR verve to drug company Pfizer

Miranda Kavanagh, who joins drug company Pfizer as its first director of corporate and public affairs in April, spent her childhood dreaming of being a barrister. ’I liked the idea of getting up in court wearing a wig,’ she says. She studied law at university, but after reaching the bar her dream was dispelled when she realised she hated it.

Miranda Kavanagh, who joins drug company Pfizer as its first

director of corporate and public affairs in April, spent her childhood

dreaming of being a barrister. ’I liked the idea of getting up in court

wearing a wig,’ she says. She studied law at university, but after

reaching the bar her dream was dispelled when she realised she hated

it.



But the experience she gained as an advocate did not go to waste. ’I use

the skills of persuasion every day,’ Kavanagh says. Persuasiveness is a

valuable talent in winning new business, the area Kavanagh says she has

enjoyed most in her two-and-a-half years at Citigate. Prior to Citigate

Kavanagh worked exclusively in-house.



Her consultancy experience appears to have softened her attitude towards

agencies, but Kavanagh is certainly not uncritical of the PR

industry.



’I hope I will be a more understanding client. Before working in

consultancy I was probably the client from hell. I used to wonder why

consultancies let you down so much. Now I understand that it is all down

to economics. Many clients have an unrealistic idea of what they can

expect for the money they spend.’



According to Kavanagh, a lot of PR people are incompetent, a failing she

has no time for. ’I don’t suffer fools gladly,’ she says. She describes

her own brand of management as consensual. ’I like to involve people in

decisions, to make them feel they have something at stake, rather than

dictate to them.’



Kavanagh believes that the PR profession does have problems with being

taken seriously. She attributes it to the range of activities it

encompasses.



’PR is a terrifically broad church,’ she says. ’At one end of the scale

it’s Absolutely Fabulous and at the other you’ve got Peter

Mandelson.’



Kavanagh clearly has high standards and one of the attractions of the

job at Pfizer is that she feels her role is truly valued by the

company.



Her confidence is well founded. She will report to chairman Ken Moran

and expects a place on the board by the end of the year, which would be

an impressive achievement for a newly created role. ’It is important,

because to do the communication job well you must have a clear

understanding of the company’s strategic business objectives,’ Kavanagh

says.



She seems to have made a career of making her mark in newly created

roles.



She was Glaxo’s first investor relations manager, started the corporate

affairs department from scratch at Blue Circle and has been responsible

for setting up Citigate’s healthcare division.



However, public affairs is a relatively new area for Kavanagh and while

she denies being apprehensive about it, she acknowledges that it is a

new challenge. She will be helped in her task by Pfizer’s retained

public affairs agency, GPC Market Access, and says she is preparing by

reading everything she can about the area.



Kavanagh admires the strategies Labour used to win the general election

last year and believes industry has a lot to learn about how to manage

information flows. ’Companies in the past might have been guilty of

thinking they could simply dictate,’ she comments. ’But they have to

accommodate the views of shareholders, employees, journalists and

analysts. Good communications should go hand-in-glove with company

strategy.’



One area Kavanagh is confident about is crisis management. ’I don’t need

to go on a course,’ she says with a smile. Kavanagh’s own crash course

in crisis management was during her time as director of corporate

affairs at Fisons just before it was taken over by Rhone-Poulenc Rorer.

The company’s profits plummeted between 1992 and 1993, it faced

accusations of unethical behaviour and its chief executive was

dismissed. The key lesson she learnt was to ’always tell the truth’.



Despite the demands of her working life, not to mention the commute she

makes from Suffolk to London and back again each day, Kavanagh insists

that her two young children are number one in her life.



One of her favourite ways to relax is the ritual cake baking session she

has with three-year-old Victoria and two-year-old Henry every

weekend.



And she just about manages to spend time on her other passion,

gardening.



Her only regret? ’I don’t get enough time in my herbaceous borders.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1986

Manager of UK Investor Relations, Glaxo Holdings

1989

Head of corporate affairs, Blue Circle Industries

1993

Director of corporate affairs, Fisons

1995

Executive director, Citigate Communications

1998

Director of corporate and public affairs, Pfizer



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