Rachael Bylykbashi | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2018
Charting the future of public relations
Innovator 25 AP Rachael Bylykbashi

Rachael Bylykbashi

Director, Corporate Affairs

Roche Products Australia
Sydney

“Industries like pharma and healthcare are the best breeding ground for truly creative, innovative and commercially-relevant talent”

Innovation in healthcare communications is not easy, but Rachael Bylykbashi has built an impressive reputation from tackling this challenge, first as regional director at Edelman before taking on senior in-house roles at Roche in Singapore and Australia. In particular, Bylykbashi has helped to develop groundbreaking marketing and communications programs across pharma, medical devices, diagnostics, consumer health and public affairs, skills that are currently being deployed in her corporate affairs director role at Roche Australia. As Bylykbashi points out, innovation in healthcare calls for unique skills that traverse regulatory insight, soft power, and a focus on business outcomes. 

How do you define innovation?
Innovation means different things for different industries. In a highly regulated industry like pharma, something that’s seen as innovative could be considered old school somewhere else. Innovation can be subtle; it doesn’t have to hit you between the eyes. As long as it’s pushing the boundaries, it’s innovative.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
I particularly like campaigns that aim to create engagement and inclusiveness, especially in a day and age when so many in power try to divide communities. While I wasn’t in Australia during the vote for marriage equality, I was really touched by the number of brands that got behind the issue with some really creative perspectives. For me, Nike’s ‘yes’ campaign and Apple’s campaign to the tune of INXS’s
Never Tear Us Apart are real stand-outs.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Nike, Heineken

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
When I moved from agency to client side, it struck me that the support system within an agency can be missing in small, in-house teams. So, when I was approached to be a founding board member of APACD – the Asia Pacific Association of Communication Directors, I didn’t hesitate. Together with eight other senior in-house communicators, we build an association that developed into an inhouse focused voice for the profession in the APAC region and provided a safe place for communicators to learn how peers were dealing with transformation and the pace of change.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Richard Branson – he’s kept himself relevant for so many years.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Look for inspiration in the unexpected.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Keep pushing the boundaries and always look for inspiration in the biggest and most impactful communications challenges. For example, pharma requires truly unique skills, from navigating complex regulatory environments; to building true empathy for patients and the doctors who treat them; to understanding the soft power required to bring a naturally risk-averse culture along; to having a relentless focus on business outcomes — when measurement is often not apparent. Industries like pharma and healthcare are the best
breeding ground for truly creative, innovative and commercially-relevant talent. I love it!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
If I could afford it, lying on a beach in Thailand, otherwise working for an NGO.

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not related to PR/marketing/business?
Perfume (the book, not the movie).

What's your favourite time of day and why?
I really like the middle of the day. Mornings are crazy with the kids but by the middle of the day I can get some clarity. If I can get a moment to go for a walk and get some sun, I do.