Andy Gardner – Strategic Corporate Communications at Pharmacy Benefits Management Company

guest: Andy Gardner

In this episode Joe Speaks with Andy Gardner, Principal, Corporate Communications at Prime Therapeutics. He is responsible for both internal and external digital communications, using a variety of channels such as websites, live streaming, and podcasts. Andy is passionate about using new platforms to get messages out to the right people, and he believes that communication can have a real impact on people’s lives.

Andy points outs communication professionals are not just button pushers, but that they play an important role in helping businesses grow. He and his team use a variety of tools and tactics to communicate with both internal and external audiences, and they are always looking for new ways to be more effective.  Make sure to listen to the episode to learn more about Andy’s experience and best practices.

Prime Therapeutics is a pharmacy benefit management company that bridges the gap between medical and pharmacy management. They offer a wide range of solutions that help to deliver better, more affordable health outcomes. Prime Therapeutics recently acquired Magellan RX, and the two companies are now in the process of coming together.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to mind your own marketing business podcast, where we explore marketing trends and technology, gaining insider knowledge from the industry’s best Fjord is proud to present mind your own marketing business with host Joe.

……. thanks for joining us on the mind your own marketing business podcast. I’m Joe Barsanis from web and software development team Fjorge. And today on our show, we’ll be talking with Andy Gardner from Prime Therapeutics. Welcome to the show, Andy. Yeah, thanks for inviting me, Joel. You know, Fjord has been a great partner to work with, you know, prior to working with Fjord, you know, you know, we, you know, had a process that was slow for our website and, you know, and it was outdated for our needs to, and we really needed to improve our corporate website, you know, in the two plus years we’ve been working with you guys, you know, it’s, you know, we’ve been able to get, You know, some projects completed and, and it really, um, have that truly amazing, uh, collaboration with your team.

So, so thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely. We’ve always enjoyed working with you and your team, and it’s great to kind of converse in this way and, and learn a little bit more about you and your organization and kind of share it with our audience as well. So thanks so much for joining this. So, um. Andy, talk to me first about, um, what your role curr or what your job title is and what your role is currently at Prime.

Yeah, uh, it’s a great question. Uh, my current role at Prime is that I lead our digital communications function. So what, what that means is that, uh, we both have internal and external communication. So anything digitally. Um, my team is responsible for, uh, you know, and in my career, you know, I like to describe myself as a communicator who has fallen in love with finding, you know, new platforms to get messages out to the right people.

So, you know, anything from a mobile app, no notification to a website, to video, to podcast, you know, so, so really, um, focusing on, on all that digital communication stuff, uh, for prime therapeutics. Yeah, absolutely. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And so how did you grow? I know you’ve been at Prime for a while, but, but how did your, you know, college and career path take you to Prime Therapeutics?

What kind of was your background? What was your dream? And, and are you living that dream? Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of funny because I had a professor in college that, um, always talked about being in the healthcare industry for public relations or communications, right? So coming out of college, I really kind of set my eyes on that.

However, my first job out of college was a, um, it was with a company called nonprofit solutions. And, and what I was responsible for is working with our nonprofit association clients to develop some communication plans for them and, and really craft those messages. And then fortunately, after a few years there, I was able to, um, Uh, work at Medtronic, uh, doing some internal communication work.

And that’s kind of where I first started diving into some of this digital communication type work, right? So being able to build a intranet on a SharePoint site for employees, right? And then, um, then I got, you know, um, uh, workforce reduction forced me out at Medtronic, and then I was able to. Land here at prime and, um, luckily it’s, you know, you know, it’s the healthcare sector still, um, and really focused in on that digital communication stuff.

And, you know, it seems like it’s always changing within the healthcare industry. And, and, you know, I, you know, I really look at this industry as being able to really have an impact on someone’s life, you know, The communication function, yes, it’s an indirect impact, but, you know, we’re still in it together with our colleagues, right?

Yeah, for sure, for sure. And talk to me a little bit because I, you know, even as we were engaging first with your organization, you know, certainly had seen some of the Here in Minnesota, I have seen some of the, the buildings that you guys have been in and seen your, your logo and those sorts of things, but still was kind of, uh, you know, unsure exactly what Prime Therapeutics is and, and does, um, do you want to share with the audience just kind of an overview of Prime Therapeutics?

And then I know you had a recent acquisition if you want to jump in there, um, talking about like how, how you’ve combined forces with Magellan. Um, just give us a little bit of a background of what the overall business is. Thanks. Yeah, absolutely. And, and I, and I hope you’ve caught up, um, over the year with us.

So, so, but, but really the way I, I explain it to my family and friends is that we work with health plans, pharmacies, and other, uh, stakeholders. bridge really the distance between medical and pharmacy management. So what does that really mean is, um, you know, we, we work with our clients, um, 19 of which are our owners and we offer a wider array of, you know, leading edge solutions that, um, really.

Um, look to unlock the potential of integrated drug management and help deliver better, more affordable health outcomes with the delivery of, of medicines. Um, and like you mentioned, we, yes, we just went through, uh, acquisition with, uh, Magellan RX. Uh, we’re still in, in the, you know, stages of bringing the two companies together and it’s, it’s really been a good partnership, you know, they’ve.

They’ve brought in some of that specialty, um, industry knowledge where we, where we’ve historically been focused in on, uh, the, the PBM side. So, um, really looking, um, forward to the next, you know, few months, years as, as these two companies come together. Got it. Yeah. And I guess just kind of a side question here about that process.

What what challenges does combining, uh, two organizations, uh, deliver to someone like yourself in both internal and external communications? What challenges are you working through at the current moment? Yeah, that’s a great question, too. Um, with that, uh, specifically with the internal communication side of things, right?

So we’re bringing two companies together on different platforms, different systems. So, um, from a communications perspective, it’s a challenge to get the right messages to the right people because, you know, you kind of have to go through, you know, Looking at distribution list and looking at the ways that, um, both companies historically got communications and really developing a program that that will make it easy for, uh, those, um, employees to get the information.

So what we did is we built, uh, a microsite that’s on, that’s on SharePoint and, you know, with. With the Microsoft 365, you’re able to, you know, set permissions and stuff. So we were able to grant permissions to the MRX, uh, folks to be able to access, uh, their specific site, uh, through their network. So, um, it was just a.

Real unique way and being able to provide that, um, to provide that, uh, day one activity information. And then once they’ve been brought over to primary, they’ve, they’ve, they have all the access to all of our different, uh, can meet our different communication channels. So, um, it’s, it’s, it’s been a whirlwind.

Yeah. I mean, it always is. And especially for those who need to communicate very thoughtful delivery of messages, both internally and externally, and how it’s, it’s all gonna flow and be cohesive as coming together as one team. Yeah. And, and then externally, Joel, right? You know, there’s two, two companies that have two different, you know, digital ecosystems, right?

So looking at it from my perspective, you know, there’s two websites, um, there’s, there’s two social media accounts for, you know, all the different channels. So really working, um, Across our corporate communication team, our marketing team, and really making sure that we’re aligned with the different content that’s being put out through these different channels is really what’s the, what’s been the most challenging from the external side of things.

But then, you know, as, as we grow into one company, you know, that’s going to smooth out, um, you know, over time. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Yeah, but you got to work through that. And it’s, it’s, um, you know, it’s got to be well thought through and strategize. So, um, that’s really cool that you’re able to kind of bring that together so quickly with some different ideas internally.

And then that that translates to externally as well. Um, I know, uh, from speaking with you in the past that like one of your roles is like you’ll get ideas from um, within your organization where somebody might say, Hey, I need this little landing page or, Hey, I need to make a video or I need to do this.

Um, but what they ask for as an end result, isn’t always clear about how you’re going to get there. Can you talk to me a little bit about like how you go through that process about adding value through the communications process versus just, Hey, I need this, let’s go do it. Like, how do you decide what gets done, how it gets done, what story to tell, and all of those sorts of things.

Yeah, that’s an old adage where people think that, you know, corporate communicators are just button pushers, right? Or, you know, we just type messages, right? Sure. You know, that’s been a common myth and misconception about our field. But the way I look at it is, is that any stakeholder that’s wanting to communicate to an audience has to think about the objective first.

Right. And, um, early on in the process, when people come to us asking for, let’s say a video or a blog on our newsroom, you know, we take a step back and ask them, all right, what’s the objective be? Behind, uh, what you’re trying to communicate here. Then we have a thoughtful conversation and then we start putting the plan together as far as, you know, who the communication is coming from, you know, what are the key messages that relate back to our business?

And then secondly, you know, being able to, um, determine the timing, right. Because the timing is often a. Um, moving target. So, so, so making sure that that everyone’s clear on when some of these messages are being displayed on these digital channels is a very important aspect of the job. Got it. Got it. And I know so.

You know, what are your current, you know, I don’t know if the right question is like favorite or most impactful things that that you’re doing right now from a tactic? Is it, is it blogging? Is it video? Is it a another form of communication that that maybe you’re utilizing, um, in your day to day or month to month?

Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, If you would ask me the question six months ago, my answer probably would be different. Right. Um, but I think one of the things that we’re going to be, uh, leveraging, uh, coming into 2024 is being able to produce multimedia, right? So whether it’s podcasts like this one and being able to host, um, you know, different multimedia, um, I guess tools that really relate back to our business, whether it’s telling our, uh, B2B story or if it’s, uh, telling our DNI story, uh, for recruiting efforts or just from a culture perspective.

Um, so, so, so we’ve got a lot of planning that that’s, that’s been going on about what this multimedia, uh, approach is going to look like, uh, this year. Got it, yeah, I know, um, I, I saw some of your recent work in the, I think it was a podcast or something like that about an RSV vaccine and I know, Yeah, Farkowski friends.

Um, yeah, pharmacy friends. There we go. Um, and I know you’ve, you’ve been talking to me about how you’ve got a cool new studio that you’re setting up in your new office and all of those sorts of things. And so it’s glad to, to, or it’s, it’s exciting to see that that’s a, uh, a medium that you’re taking advantage of and, and is, uh, a way to produce like meaningful content for clients and, and, and prospects and users of your, of your services as well.

Yeah. Um, Well, just to piggyback off of that, right. So, um, you know, you know, we started dipping our toes into the, you know, video stuff, you know, a few years back. And then the last year we started to. Produce more. So we had a power, the power of people series where we talked with several of our employees, um, about what it means to be at prime and to help our, you know, our recruiting efforts.

So it’s, it’s, it’s things like that to tell the human side of the story. That’s going to be very powerful. Um, with, with this, with this renewed sense of, um. I guess, uh, effort with multimedia. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. Um, you know, one thing that I’m, you know, as I know enough to be dangerous in the advertising and, and corporate communications world, you know, as I’ve learned more about your organization and, and the marketing pieces and how, how the communication team works and some of the goals that they have, but, but really how do you utilize.

Your kind of your knowledge, your experience, your internal tools and everything else to, and your team to, to really help drive that business growth, like even as a, just to communicate, not just to communicate it, that’s not a bad, um, but, uh, as a communications team, what is your role in driving business growth?

Like, how do you support that from all the other angles that are in that world from, uh, uh, acquisition and client satisfaction type of a role? Yeah. Yeah, that’s always a great question to ask a communication professional, you know, I could go on and talk about how we aid in the bottom line. Um, well, you know, while we do a little bit of that, you know, that’s not our true value, right?

There’s, there’s, there’s the number side of things, but then it’s, but then it’s looking at how we can help, um, Help our company grow, right? And we think both internal and external growth on our digital communication team So in the simplest way to describe this is on the internal side is you know, we provide you know powerful communication that helps keep employees working efficiently and With the knowledge of the company’s direction, right?

So that’s a very indirect way of helping the company grow, but it’s a really important way because without our team, employees aren’t finding out about the latest product development or the latest, um, strategy session that was, um, uh, Conducted. So, you know, internally, we’re telling these stories to really help our colleagues across the company understand the direction of prime.

And then on the external side, you know, we’re really, you know, looking to give potential customers ample, ample chances to learn about our values, products and our services. Um, so we’re often, you know, accountable for that first experience with With the company and I really look at us being, uh, the people who are equipped to either resolve conflict, transform, um, you know, these, you know, information into powerful messages that really do relate to that human side of our audiences.

And then lastly, you know, really building and maintaining relationships across all of our, uh, business lines. Sure. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, just to expand on that too, Joe is, is that, you know, um, we, you know, we really create and publish content that establishes us in the healthcare market, you know, as industry innovators, uh, clinical.

And specialty experts. So that thought leadership piece of, um, things, and then, um, really making sure that, that, that we showcase that prime is an affordable, efficient, and reliable partner. Um, and a few examples of how we do do that. Is we have a beyond the script live stream. I think last year we hosted maybe three or four, four of those where some of our thought leaders hop on a live stream and kind of talk about the value that, that we’re providing or just different aspects of the business for sure.

Yeah, absolutely. Um, and, you know, one thing that, that, you know, just, just kind of came to my mind is, is you’ve got these different things that, that you’re trying to do, your goals and accomplishments, your, or sorry, your goals for, for the team and helping the company grow, you’ve got these different mediums, whether that be social or web or video, like how does Andy and your team stay on the, on the, um, The bleeding edge of that, where are you getting your, where does Andy go for information about what things he should try, what others are doing, what my competitors are doing, what are industry best practices, like how do you learn and grow from folks like outside of your organization?

That’s a great question. Um, you know, one thing that I’ve, um, invested my time in is, is I am closely connected with the International Association of Business Communicators, um, over the last, uh, Maybe six or seven years I’ve been on the board of directors. I was, I was the president, um, two years ago. Um, and really I use that network as a, you know, sounding board to ask questions about what, um, my colleagues across, uh, Minnesota, uh, are, are doing from a digital perspective, whether it’s, you know, talking about the latest internal.

Communication slash collaboration technology or if there’s use cases or case studies around how people have used videos to, you know, promote culture, right? So really leveraging that network. And then, um, I’m always encouraging my team to be looking at industry conferences, um, to really attend. And, or just, um, get access to them because I think by going to those, you’re not only, um, you’re not only taking in the information that was presented, but you’re, you’re really connecting with people with attendees at that conference.

And that’s kind of where I find the true value behind it, you know, extending your knowledge base. Yeah, absolutely. That’s, that’s really cool that you’ve gotten involved in an organization and you’re, you’re looking at. You know, what others are doing, you’re, you’re combining with your peers in different organizations.

Um, and you’re encouraging your team to kind of grow and learn from, from all of those, those, um, events and things. And, and that brings value back to the organization and frankly to their, uh, skill set and, and experience and, and, and continuing to add value back to the organization. Yeah, absolutely.

One kind of other question is just like, at your organization, you know, how is the, the Digital communications team set up. So you’ve got yourself and you’ve got some supporting cast members. Like where do you fit into the rest of the organization? And then how are you set up in, in your kind of team? And maybe it’s changing right now with the acquisition, but what’s kind of the, the, the current or future state?

Yeah. Oh man, that’s, you know, that’s a great question. Um, I’ve thought about this a lot over the years on how. communication fits into the organization. Um, and, and I truly believe that there isn’t a magic bullet, um, just because priorities goals, uh, really constantly change right now. Um, uh, you know, we fit under corporate communications and our corporate communications team sits in marketing.

Um, so. With the digital communications vertical is we, uh, help our corporate comm colleagues take their messages and create those and, and, and create experience or create digital experiences that supercharge those messages in a, you know, a human-centered way and being able to tell that story, um, and. And our colleagues are, are, you know, deeply embedded into, uh, the business.

So being able to have those relationships, those close relationships is critical. Just, just so that we know what the actual outcome or objective of, you know, these communication tactics need to be. Um, so, you know. Like I said, there’s no magic bullet, you know, and like I mentioned before, you know, we have within my team, we have the, uh, the internal side and external side of things, uh, with, with specialists on both of those and, you know, my team is able to pivot on, on a moment’s notice to a new need, you know, so all.

All digital skills are needed, whether it’s SEO or analytics or ai. Now AI’s gonna become a big thing within the, um, internal digital communication. Um, mm-Hmm. , uh, vertical. So, so really, um, making sure that, that, that the team has the skills, uh. That are needed for, um, growth and opportunity and, and all these different ways.

Yeah, that’s, that’s really great that, that you have, um, you know, kind of those, that mindset and, and that team aspect and, and, and really trying to, uh, be a leader kind of in your field, uh, Andy, unfortunately that is all the time we have for today on, on our show, mind your own marketing business. Thank you so much to Andy from Prime Therapeutics for joining us and thank you to our listeners for joining us as well.

You can download episodes of our program by going to fjorge. com slash Mind Your Own Marketing Business or subscribing to the show on iTunes, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio. 📍 Thanks again so much Andy for joining us. Yep, thank you Joe.

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