Oral Histories

Ray Jordan

Interview Segments on Topic: PR and Technology/Change

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: You talked a little earlier about the new communications environment and bringing many more voices into the equation than have been there before. What has this done to journalism, are they still the watchdogs of business as they have thought they were? Where do journalists fit into all this now?

JORDAN: Fit into the equation? Yes, they still are the watchdogs. What’s new is who is a journalist. And I do believe the net of journalists is larger than it’s ever been. And where there historically had been a fairly clear delineation between journalists and non-journalists—if you were a journalist you could get something published, if you were a non-journalist you’d read it. Where today, what you have is you have a continuum of journalism which is approached on one end by our classical—our beat reporters who can get something published very rapidly, and with editorial oversight and traditional press, but very rapidly you move to online publishers and bloggers who reach tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of readers – sometimes more impactful collections of readers than certain print journalists. All the way to folks who are commenting in significant ways about your products. So I think the range of who is a journalist and what is their impact is changing. I do think the watchdog role is still there. We very much feel that, we feel a regular pressure from the traditional press on why we’re doing what we’re doing, how we’re doing what we’re doing. But you feel an additional pressure from the other journalists along the dimension as well.