Headliner: FitzPatrick aims to restore an icon

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Maggie FitzPatrick
Maggie FitzPatrick
Maggie FitzPatrick
CCO/VP, public affairs and corporate communication, J&J

2010–2013
CCO, Cigna

1997–2010
Senior associate to EVP, APCO Worldwide

Johnson & Johnson incoming communications chief Maggie FitzPatrick held the top comms job at Cigna from 2010 until this past summer. And, lest anyone think J&J tapped her solely for her managed care experience, let's just say FitzPatrick brings serious expertise in handling crisis-comms matters for a diverse array of clients, from airlines to financial services to healthcare.

“I think the focus for [J&J] was really finding someone who had strong experience and success in reputation management and building trust with customers,” says FitzPatrick. “Those areas were probably more appealing than my previous work in the payer sector, candidly.”

But FitzPatrick is more than just a damage-control guru. She led integration of Cigna's corporate-comms function across the US, Asia and Europe. And in 2011, she helped launch “Go You,” Cigna's first integrated media and branding campaign targeting the individual consumer.

Cigna CEO David Cordani told PRWeek in 2012 that he credits FitzPatrick with helping the MCO “unlock [its] DNA” while helping colleagues connect with communities.

That experience must have won her credibility among the corporate overseers at J&J, which is in the midst of its own corporate branding effort—TBWA/Chiat/Day's “For All You Love” campaign.

Launched in April, the campaign comes in the wake of a slew of recalls since 2009 which have hurt the New Brunswick, NJ, company's ranking on Forbes' Most-Admired Companies listing (it's now 23rd), not to mention costing it hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales. These have included OTC meds from its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit and artificial hips from its DePuy Orthopedics op co. About 10,000 lawsuits are pending against the company in connection with the artificial hip devices.

Following that drumbeat of bad news, Bill Weldon stepped down as CEO in April 2012 and was replaced by Alex Gorsky, former vice chair. The top PR post was vacated when Ray Jordan went to Amgen a year ago.

FitzPatrick is not shy about her main challenge. “It is clear to me that J&J is committed to restoring trust,” she says. “The work is under way and with Alex's leadership and the leadership of the business leaders at J&J, I have no doubt that we will quickly return to those top rankings.” She is also tasked with overseeing global internal and external communications and public affairs.

The new CCO will work with Gorsky (although she won't report directly to him), as well as with the executive and management committees. “That was one of the reasons I took the job,” FitzPatrick says, citing Gorsky's “commitment to leading a purpose-driven organization” and dedication to values expressed in J&J's 1943 Credo.

A Delaware native, FitzPatrick attended Syracuse on an athletic scholarship and went on to get her Master's in public policy at George Washington.

Her first job was interning for then-senator Joe Biden. Asked what it was like to work for the likable Delaware pol known for his one-liners, FitzPatrick says simply, “It was great...I worked in constituent relationships, so it was my first entrée into communications.”

She's on the board of Companions for Heroes, which matches therapy dogs with returning veterans.

An avid angler and boater, FitzPatrick has a home on the Chesapeake Bay, where she spends weekends, and she's relocating her weekday digs to New Jersey to be closer to J&J headquarters.

So far, her on-boarding process has included a listening tour of the various facilities within the J&J companies. “The internal culture is strong and the focus on values [is] unwavering,” she says. “[J&J] has a long history of being a remarkable company with a strong corporate reputation, and I see that that will…continue to strengthen. I'm very optimistic about the future.”

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