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Spotlight on … Erica Klinger

Spotlight on … Erica Klinger

October 2022

Senior Director of Marketing
Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM)

Your career has taken you from Connecticut to Norfolk, Va., to Memphis, Seattle and now Washington, D.C. — always, it seems, with greater responsibilities. Can you tell us about that journey?

I was born and went to college in New England and, at the beginning of the dot-com boom, worked at web design startups near Norfolk, Va., that helped banks and other clients establish their online presence. I went from a web designer role to director at Stratum Marketing in just five years. This was the very beginning of what everybody back then called “e-commerce.” “Interactivity” was new, too. I have a master’s degree in education, and I’ve always believed that education was about engagement. So that was a useful background for clients when they were trying to reach people through new forms of media.

But your undergraduate degree is in fine arts, right?

Yes, but my concentration there was graphic design. I never entertained any idea of being a great painter or an art historian. I suppose I was going to be what at one time was called a “commercial artist,” using the visual arts to communicate and help people and businesses. So the two disciplines of the graphic arts and education complemented each other.

And this was also a time when an expertise in those areas was in high demand.

It was, and for part of that time, I was able to work for Stratum Marketing in Virginia remotely. That is not unusual today but was then. And that was a great benefit when most of your family was back in New England and you are the mother of two small children, as I was at the time. In fact, it was when I was working remotely for Stratum that I got my master’s degree at the University of New Hampshire.

What brought this New Englander to Tennessee?

I took a job at Signature 901, one of the biggest ad agencies in Memphis, at a time when they, too, wanted to expand their communications and marketing capabilities, taking them from the traditional practices to the next level. Here I went from digital director to VP omnichannel marketing. We represented Fed Ex, for example, which is headquartered in Memphis, and before long I was not only helping the client establish its online presence — with very early “YouTube-esque” features — but also doing more as a strategist to help use data to solve business problems.

And then to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital?

I had applied there when I first got to Memphis, where St. Jude’s is also headquartered. I remember the woman who eventually hired me said that in my first interview I told her I wanted to work there because I wanted “to change the world.” I have always wanted to use the visual arts to educate people, and while they seemed to like me, they weren’t ready to move into this new world of online engagement. But after I was in Memphis for three years, they called and said, “We’re ready,” so I went there and ended up as the director of their online promotions.

And finally, after working for the Seattle Foundation, you’re back in the East, in Washington.

I’ve always believed in “cause marketing,” which was a new idea or even buzzword at that time, and St. Jude’s and now AAM are nonprofits — what I think of as “businesses with a mission.” Almost all of their outreach is a form of cause marketing or advocacy. So AAM is a good fit, especially because I believe so strongly in the importance of generic drugs, which now make up more than 90% of prescriptions that are filled. We represent the manufacturers of generic drugs and “biosimilars,” rather than the brand name drugs that are so much more costly to consumers. We’re not part of “big pharma,” though it is gratifying to see that the public is beginning to look more favorably upon the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.

How do you account for this improvement?

I think the pandemic had a lot to do with that. There was a tremendous amount of goodwill built up during those trying times — times when people saw front-line workers in the medical field working around the clock. This was also a time when people might not have been able to buy toilet paper, but they could still get their medicines. Pharmaceutical companies were also donating medicine and supplying the PPE that we all relied on so heavily in that period. And that improvement in the way the public regards this industry is so encouraging.

You’ve seen a good deal of improvement in AAM’s grassroots efforts, too, right?

Yes, one of my functions is to grow our grassroots capabilities, and with my background in education and engagement, our team has been really successful in these efforts. We’ve seen engagement skyrocket, increasing our number of advocates to 20,000 in the first two years since I’ve been here. It’s a great story to tell — one of many, we hope, to come.

And you’ve been asked to be the chair of the 2022 IGBA Global Biosimilars Week social media campaign?

The campaign happens next month, in November. AAM is a member of IGBA [the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association],and this campaign brings together all my experience in organizational partnerships, advocacy and social media/digital on a global platform. It’s a great honor but a great responsibility, too.

Reach Klinger at 206.240.8587 or [email protected].

Erica Klinger

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