Julissa Viana

“Early in my career, my professional life converged with my personal interest.”

I’m a big believer in the purpose of using social to engage — I don’t want to just push out information.

Julissa Viana says with several family members with chronic diseases, she found working in the healthcare industry extremely rewarding. “I felt that I was able to bring my personal experience to the work I was doing every day and ultimately represent, to some extent, people like my family,” she explains.

In the mid to late 2000s, she was working in PR for pharmaceutical companies like Sanofi and Novartis. She says when a position as the Director of US Communications and Issues Management opened at Sanofi in 2005, she jumped at it. “I thought it was a way into the industry, and obviously it was an interesting time and position, and I learned a lot from it,” she says.

It was an interesting time and position for Julissa at Sanofi because it was a controversial one.

Her role had a major focus on campaigns for obesity, sleep, and diabetes products. Julissa explains that, at the time, issues around whether obesity was a personal failure or a health condition was just becoming a more mainstream discussion.

“From day one of taking the position, I was constantly managing extensive media relations, correcting the record, and managing issues. I was trying to legitimize a disease that people didn’t see as a disease. It was a really great challenge for me professionally.”

When she joined Celgene in 2012 as a Director of Public Relations, they didn’t have a social media presence.

I was trying to legitimize a disease that people didn’t see as a disease.

The company’s policy on social media essentially said they couldn’t do anything. So Julissa began working with their legal, commercial, regulatory, and medical teams to rewrite it.

“I took it on myself to see if we could have a policy that placed parameters, to allow us to have a social media presence — not just as a corporation, but also for our brands and franchises in various disease categories.”

And within six months, Julissa had successfully revised the policy and made a new job for herself along with her original responsibilities: helping Celgene and its brands get on social media. Last year, she was promoted and formally given the title and responsibility to lead global social media.

“As the Senior Director of Global Social Media, I got to write my own job description and objectives,” Julissa says.

If I can’t be the scientist and come up with the next innovation for patients, I’m excited about at least being able to talk about them on our platforms when they do happen.

“That includes everything you can imagine when you’re a team of just one: content creation, monitoring, engagement, and strategy. And wearing this many hats can be a challenge in itself.”

And although she’s a team of one, she’s supported by 10-12 content contributors who help out with creating social media posts for their corporate and franchise channels in addition to their work.

“I often talk about the progression of a social presence from someone laying down, to standing up, walking, and running. Where we are in social now is the walking stage. But depending on the platform, we may be jogging,” she says.

“I’m a big believer in the purpose of using social to engage — I don’t want to just push out information.”

Julissa admits that she can be a bit of an overachiever with trying to understand every detail and ins-and-outs of each channel, how they function, how to leverage it, different ways to use it, why they should use it, and how to set it up.

After all, as the Senior Director of Global Social Media, Julissa is responsible for vetting any Celgene social media presence or initiative all over the world. If an employee wants to start one, they have to go through her first. “I think that makes me a better counselor ultimately for anyone who wants to use our channels or create one, because I have to speak from some level of expertise.”

When asked what she likes most about her job, Julissa laughs, “I get to do social media — it’s really simple.”

“If I can’t be the scientist and come up with the next innovation for patients, I’m excited about at least being able to talk about them on our platforms when they do happen.”

Julissa’s been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2016. Follow her on Twitter and ask about her favorite red wine.


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