Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By Ekrem Dupanovic
Translated to English by Hana Maurer
Amra Maynard has 16 years experience in communications and providing support to leading clients from tbe pharma and the non-profit sectors in several treatment fields.
Born in Banja Luka (BiH), she moved to America in 1995. She graduated in history of art at the Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She also studied in Madrid on an exchange programme. She lives in New York with her husband and two children. She is currently vice-president at Ogilvy, where she leads a team working with a high-profile global pharmaceutical company in the field of oncology. Before Ogilvy, she worked at Orangefiery providing scientific communications for a global company and advised a major pharmaceutical house on defining and implementing its innovation strategy and focus on government and healthcare professionals. Before Orangefiery, Amra worked at a public relations company Biosector 2 (Syneos Health department) advising pharmaceutical companies and non-profits. While there, she led teams on initiatives raising awareness for companies, organisations, and products, deploying modern communications tools, including relations with media and non-profit organisations, coalition building, sponsored content, social media, targeted ads, events and collaborations with high-profile personalities.
Through her career, Amra has also helped to develop and spread awareness of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.
MM: You studied art history at universities in the US and Madrid, but have spent the past 16 years working for the pharmaceutical industry. How did that happen, and why the orientation towards pharmacy?
Amra Maynard: I fell in love with biology at university. I even daydreamed about going into medicine, but didn’t really take to the organic chemistry. I was very curious about everything so in the end I chose the liberal arts track. As well as art history, I studied analytical thinking, research, and writing. I was a member of various school clubs, and volunteered, writing articles, Ljeti bih vorganising educational events and marketing projects. I wanted to help people through education. My final year, I knew that what I wanted was to use all those skills in my career, but not how to do it. Just before graduation, I got in touch with alumni from my school who worked at companies specialising in public relations in healthcare and was called for informative interviews. Some of them passed my CV on to their companies and that’s how I got my first job.
MM: You are leading a team at Ogilvy working with a high profile global pharma company in the area of oncology. What exactly does your team do on this project?
Amra Maynard: The most important part of the job is helping the client prepare communications for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a therapy for a certain kind of cancer. For example, we write the public announcements; Q&As (for internal use); social media content and audience targeting, and content for the company website and internal communications; identifying and preparing spokespeople; media releases; sponsored media content; etc. And then, unrelated to the FDA approval, we do work on raising awareness of cancer therapy and the company’s commitment to patients with cancer and everyone helping them – doctors, carers, advocacy groups.
MM: Your work on projects for the pharmaceutical industry and non-profits indicates you are working on socially responsible projects. The communications industry is increasingly turning to responsible brands, brands that change the communities they “live in”. Can ideas change a world with such big problems?
Amra Maynard: Of course! Successful ideas are successful because they are based on insights regarding the target group and white space a company can effectively influence on its own or in partnership with others. Your messages have to resonate, get through to the target public in the way they enjoy content. The goal isn’t just to promote a product or company. It’s to find a way to help the community. So, for example, I worked recently on the Be Vocal, Speak Up for Mental Health campaign for Sunovion Pharmaceuticals and the five leading mental health organisations in America. Its spokesperson at the time was the singer Demi Lovato. The initiative encouraged people all around America to use their voice to support mental health in America. The goal of Be Vocal was to equip adults living with mental health disorders to talk with the professional support team and, as a community, work on improving mental health in America.
MM: In 1995, you moved to America and you live in New York today with your husband and two children. What has your career path looked like? How did you reach your current position as vicepresident at Ogilvy?
Amra Maynard: I came to hHealthcare public relations quite by accident – connecting my passion for biology, analytical thinking, research, writing, creative ideas, training, and marketing in a single job that is varied and dynamic and where I can help people through education. While I was at university I had an informative interview with an alumna from the school and she forwarded my CV to her firm. At the start of my career, I had to learn the tools of the communications trade, and then began gradually taking on more responsibility and leading teams, and finally was tasked with operational development and finances. In my 16 years of experience I have worked for leading pharmaceutical and non-profit clients in many treatment areas. I have worked with small and big firms, small and big clients, small and big teams in many treatment areas. I came to Ogilvy because of its reputation as a global company with a big presence in healthcare. I was interested in working for a high profile company in the oncology field, where I already had experience. Not to mention that I liked the team in New York a lot. I have led teams there on various initiatives raising awareness for companies, organisations, and products using modern communications tools, including public relations, sponsored content, social media, targeted ads, and collaborations with high-profile personalities and organisations.
MM: From your vantage point as vicepresident at Ogilvy, you have a clear overview of the communications profession at the global level. How do you see public relations developing, and what are the trends?
Amra Maynard: When I started working in communications 16 years ago, it was all about the basic traditional tools – public announcements; finding and preparing spokespeople; press releases; organising events; letters to the editor; satellite media tours/radio media tours, and so on. The public we are trying to reach and how it consumes content have become more complex, but we have a growing and constantly changing toolbox – alongside the tradtional tools and the social media that are now the norm, we use sponsored content of considerable sophistication and work with targeted advertising (where we know exactly who is consuming the context, when and how), multimedia experiences (online and offline), virtual and augmented reality, etc. At the same time, the increasingly fierce competition for the public’s attention makes it crucial to ground creative ideas on insight into the target group and the white space an organisation or company, partnering with other organisations, can influence effectively. Another goal is to help the company find creative ways to help the community.
MM: You have helped foster and spread awareness of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian film festival in New York. Can you tell us something about the Festival and your role in organising it?
Amra Maynard: The Bosnian and Herzegovinian Film Festival in NYC is an annual cultural event that showcases contemporary BH cinematography and films about Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a unique cultural event that offers young talent in film a platform alongside internationally recognised creatives, while at the same time spreading understanding of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I joined the organisers of the BHFF in 2004 (its second year) and helped out until 2013, by when it was already a highly significant institution in NYC. While a member of the BHFF steering board, I helped shape its development strategy and increase its visibility by developing and creating a PR and marketing strategy. I was also the spokesperson, helped out as MC, event planner, and in fundraising. Now, , thanks to the work, energy, and creativity of the volunteers, the BHFF is in its 17th year. I am really proud of everything the taj BHFF team has achieved and can hardly wait for this year’s event in October!
MM: Work in the communications industry is very dynamic. Add living in New York and time management becomes quite a challenge. What does your work day look like and how much free time do you have? How do you spend it?
Amra Maynard: My work day is very full, dynamic, and varied. I barely have time to catch my breath or sit down for lunch (except in front of my computer). I have a lot of meetings, a lot of emails to write and reply to. I do a bit of everything – planning, creative brainstorming, communicating with the boss, team members, and clients, writing, monitoring the team’s work, making sure the team members and clients are happy, finances, and so on. My work day is generally from 9 a.m. to 6/6.30 p.m. Actually, I am reading and replying to emails from the moment I wake up in the morning and doing the same in the evening before going to sleep, if there is anything urgent. In my free time, I cook, do the shopping for food and other necessities, and spend time with my husband and my two young kids. Before the coronavirus put the whole world on hold, we loved going to Central Park together, to classical concerts, the BHFF, museums, and music classes for the children. We loved spending time with friends and my husband’s family (mine are mostly in Bosnia, except for a couple of cousins in NYC) and videoconferencing with family in Bosnia, Austria, etc. We are looking forward to those times returning soon – just so long as everyone’s healthy.
MM: The news from New York and the coronavirus situation is worse every day. What is your situation today, Tuesday, the 31st of March?
Amra Maynard: For the moment we have everything we need – food, hot water, power, the internet. The subway and the buses are still working, like transport more generally, but we are being advised not to use public transport. There is still no ban on going out for a walk or a run or grocery shopping, but we have to keep two metres apart from other people and out of playgrounds. My husband and I are ordering in plenty of food from the delivery services so as not to be exposed to crowds or the virus. Sometimes the choice of food is not great and there’s no chicken or hand disinfectant, or something like that, but it is what it is – those are small problems.
Unfortunately, a lot of people have lost their jobs under the current difficult situation. Except for the food stores and pharmacies, the shops are all temporarily closed or have closed down for good because they can’t cover the bills. The schools and kindergardens are closed. New York is nearly empty. Everyone who could leave New York has. There’s no one in Times Square. Most people who still have a job are working from home, unless they are key workers (like doctors), who have no choice. Anyone with small children has to entertain and school them at home.
The situation is getting worse. There are more and more sick people (around 40,000 diagnosed in NYC; a colleague and her husband are both sick). There are a lot of people who don’t even know they are infected because there aren’t enough tests for everyone, people are dying (more than a 1000 in NYC, and the number is rising every day). We still haven’t seen the worst. We hear the ambulance sirens all the time, which is harrowing. The healthcare system is not ready for the coming wave of sick people. The doctors, nurses, and everyone working in hospitals don’t have enough protective equiment or respirators. It’s absolute chaos at the hospitals. Unfortunately, it’s the same everywhere around the world (I never stop thinking about those close to me in Bosnia, Croatia, and other countries around the world).
I so admire and am so grateful to the heroes, the doctors, nurses, police, teachers, firemen, scientists, journalists, and everyone fighting to help us beat the virus.
MM: How are you and your husband and children spending your time in self-isolation?
Amra Maynard: Oh, working, following the news, looking after the kids, feeding them, keeping them entertained the best we can (drawing, reading, watching cartoons), keeping in touch with family and friends by phone, message, or video call. We share advice with friends from work on getting through it all, sometimes jokes too, you have to keep a sense of humour. I cook and always try to make sure we have good food at home. We go out with the kids most days to keep fit, as its hard being cooped up indoors, but we take care to keep our distance from others. Each evening at seven the neighbours go to their windows and clap to applaud the hospital staff and everyone fighting the virus. We do it too. We have explained to our daughter, who is three and a half, why we are doing it, and she says she wants to be a nurse when she grows up.
* The opinions expressed are Amra’s only and do not express the views of her employer.