Oral Histories

Ray Jordan

Interview Segments on Topic: Challenges/Accomplishments

Ray Jordan Biography

Ray Jordan is senior vice president of corporate affairs at Amgen, the world’s largest independent biotech firm. A pharma veteran, he previously was vice president of communications and information at Johnson & Johnson, and brought 27 years of experience in global health care to his position at Amgen, having spent 17 years at Pfizer before joining J&J.


INTERVIEWER: Generally, what are the challenges facing public relations executives today in the corporate world and how can those be met?

JORDAN: Wow, that’s a wide question but it’s one that we at Page are constantly wrestling with. What I’m hearing from across the professions is a large set of the challenges comes from the dramatically changed communication environment that we’re operating in. Social media is part of it, the digital environment, that seems to be driving a level of transparency that is unique to us, but yet it brings us back to the fact that our actions are going to speak equally loud as our words in driving for that credibility. But that’s a different responsibility for us, right? Driving our actions rather than just communicating about them. But I think that’s a challenge, I think related to that is the organizational challenge that is coming from the fact that in this new communication environment there are many more decision makers, many more publishers in effect, than there has ever been, so every person has a voice. It’s not just the opinion leaders, or the influencers driving points of view, but it’s every person who can influence every other person. So this notion of a much more diverse communication universe is I think, changing things. Among the things that are changing are the structures of our own organizations. Classical marketing, classical PR, are not nearly as separate as they used to be since the dialogues now have to happen between them. So I think managing those organizational constructs are key. Both of those, which I think are among the biggest challenges, come from that dramatically changed environment in which we’re operating in.

INTERVIEWER: And how are CCOs meeting these challenges?

JORDAN: Addressing them in different ways, and we’re learning as we go, that’s the one thing I can assure. But I’m seeing a lot of movement where organizations are recognizing social media as not only a skill that the organization has to have, but as a core skill. And in fact, I’ll even mention, at Johnson & Johnson a couple years back, we had the notion that social media was a special competency for our communicators. So where you might do financial media, you also do social media. And about a year and a half or so back, we decided—no, no, this is wrong. Social media is no longer a specialty; it is a core competency, like writing, like counseling. So that’s one approach, which is to embed this new mechanism right into your organization. The other side is, I think we’re seeing closer and closer collaboration and integration between the marketing and the communications structures. So there’s recognition that you can’t just broadcast your equity over here for marketing, and deal with the press over here, but that there’s much more of an interplay and integration. Those are a couple of examples of addressing it.

INTERVIEWER: The aim of the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State and of the Arthur W. Page Society is to help individuals become counselors to leadership. How can individuals best prepare themselves for that role?

JORDAN: That’s a wonderful question; I don’t think there’s a single answer to that. I actually struggled in thinking about that question—what is the right trajectory to counseling. I do believe it comes first from getting to a perspective on issues that are so critical to the organization that you can defend your perspective on those issues, right up to and including, betting your job on it. Because it’s the point where, if you’re convinced enough about a matter that you’re prepared to do that, then you really can boldly counsel a senior leader, often in ways that are going to be uncomfortable. If the counseling is simply to support or encourage, it’s probably not the most valuable counseling. The most valuable counseling is going to be the counseling that challenges the leader. It’s never an easy place to be, but I would say that it’s a place that as you build to that, for any given issue, you need to get yourself to such a solid foundation that you’re prepared to take that on. So, I would encourage in any activity that you’re operating in, get to a perspective. Get to an informed opinion about a topic that you feel so strongly about, that you’re prepared to take on the challenges of that.