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
"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
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,"
"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,