Monday, February 18, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 95



Philip Morris exec encourages openness in PR

By Kristin Buchanan
Daily Cougar Staff

The UH chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America united public relations and other communications students from an eight-state region Saturday for its first annual Communications Round-up Southeast Regional Keynote luncheon and seminar. The event featured Philip Morris U.S.A., the parent company of national and international tobacco products.

"People have some preconceived ideas about our company," said Tom Ryan, the manager of media programs for Philip Morris U.S.A., at the Conrad N. Hilton Ballroom. "We are
working to address and challenge underlying assumptions."

Shifting from one foot to another, Ryan opened his speech with a confession.

"We make a product that's addictive, that causes diseases," Ryan said. "Our credibility is considered very low."

Marketing tobacco products is one of the most controversial things public relations can do, Ryan said. He offered advice to young professionals who may work for controversial
companies in the future.

"If you find yourself at the next Firestone, the next Enron, communicate directly and openly with the press," he said.

The conference also included a workshop on non-profit PR, one on sports PR and one on post-graduation tips with Kenneth Jedding, author of Real Life Notes: Reflections and
Strategies for Life After Graduation.

The seminar held a discussion panel on ethics with Sharon Bowen, assistant professor of communication; Graham Painter, vice president of public affairs for Reliant Energy;
Francisco Agraz, public affairs specialist for the Houston FBI; and Robert Heath, UH professor of communication and director of the Institute for the Study of Issues Management.

"If we can't trust professional communicators in our society, then we have a cynical society," Heath said.

Painter offered advice for young public relations students confronted with ethical dilemmas.

"Your situation is divided loyalties," he said. "The first and foremost thing is to do the right thing. If you can't do that, you're in trouble.

"It is that notion that sometimes you come to a reality because you are forced to face the consequences of that reality," Heath said.

"Sometimes we don't want to hear bad news even when it's out there," Heath said.

The conference ended with a workshop titled "How to Control Your Job Interview" with Jim Myers, president of Motivators, Inc.

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