Local | Mind, Body & Spirit

PR star going strong despite two brain tumors

Marian Salzman
Marian Salzman

May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month. After having two brain tumors removed in the last four years, Tucsonan Marian Salzman, 53, is celebrating being alive. And she’s not just alive, she’s vibrant, creative and has a prominent role in the world of public relations and newscrafting.

Salzman, the CEO of Havas PR North America, has been credited with popularizing the word “metrosexual.” Frequently crisscrossing the continent from Havas’ main office in New York City and media strategizing with clients, Salzman pinpoints “what kind of cultural trends are going to break through the news clutter.”

“I look for culture trends for our clients to identify early. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten way more interested in working for the good guys,” she says, “although I still go to work every day to help brand soft drinks.”

Last month, after her second brain surgery — the first was in 2007 — Salzman took off for Boston, where she consulted with the Cambridge Public Schools a week after the Boston Marathon bombing. “My role,” she says, “was to be of counsel, to help them weed through media requests, and to help them compile statements that they provided to media and the community.”

Since her first brain surgery, Salzman has become an advocate for veterans who return home from Iraq or Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious head injuries. Seeing the full recovery of her friend Bob Wood­ruff — the ABC news anchor who in 2006 sustained a traumatic brain injury when a bomb struck his vehicle in Iraq — has helped her, she says. And she has taken heart from Wood­ruff’s comment about wounded warriors, “It’s not about the war. It’s about the warriors.” Looking at fighting in conflict zones that way helped influence Salzman to work with veterans. “We got all our anti-war friends involved,” she says.

Recently, Robbie and Alissa Parker, the parents of Emilie Parker, one of the 6-year-old shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., became clients. Havas created the website for the Emilie Parker Arts Connection (www.emilieparker.com) working with the Parkers, “implementing their vision, editing the videotapes they had,” says Salzman. “They are incredibly great clients because they have a clear

vision of how they wanted to express their message and they are involved with every word.” She also helped the Parkers set up a foundation and “deal with the media bombardment. They needed to grieve in private.”

Four days after her most recent surgery, she was on CBS News as a spokesperson for Newtown families 100 days after the shootings, which helped to shield families devastated by the tragedy. “In some ways, I credit the Parkers with my quick recovery,” Salzman told the AJP. “They have been through so much, and have done so much good. I feel like a brain tumor is such a small thing relative to what they live with every day since the tragedy at Sandy Hook.”

Many people would say that having a brain tumor is its own personal tragedy. “All brain tumors are brain cancer,” says Salzman, adding that hers have been “atypical [meningiomas], not benign or malignant, very fast growing but they haven’t gotten into the actual brain tissue. Everything is about location in the brain.”

Since having her first brain tumor removed in 2007, Salzman has to get periodic brain scans. Usually recurring tumors are found in the same place, she says, but her second tumor wasn’t. “I was misscanned three times” before the almond-sized tumor was found and removed at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.

“My neurosurgeon says, ‘This is probably not going to kill you. When you get to your sixth tumor we’ll talk about it,’” says Salzman. Her retort? “In 24 years I expect you people at the Harvard Medical School to find a cure.”

A graduate of Brown University, Salzman is the author or coauthor of 15 books, including “The Next Now” and “The Future of Man.” She blogs at Forbes.com’s CMO Network, the Huffington Post, CNBC.com, More Magazine’s website and other online and print publications.

Salzman and her husband, Jim Diamond, who have a house in Stamford, Conn., last year bought a house in Tucson. She was working on a project in Chicago and flew to Arizona to meet Diamond for a weekend. “We fell in love with Tucson and bought a house completely on a lark,” she says.

Salzman grew up New Jersey, where she attended two years of Hebrew school. When her father, a Conservative Jew, told her she couldn’t have a Bat Mitzvah, she lost interest and stopped attending. But she began to reconnect to Judaism while living in Amsterdam, after rereading “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

In Tucson, she and her husband have been looking for “the right synagogue fit for us. This is home now,” says Salzman, although she intends to travel at least five days a month. “This was my life before brain cancer so it’s time to dive back in.”