THE BIG PITCH: How can Philip Morris regain PR ground following thepublication of the Czech report?

JONATHAN HENDL, Senior account supervisor, The MWW Group, East

Rutherford, NJ

For a company so calculated in its endeavors, Philip Morris didn't count

on the international reaction to its report that the Czech Republic

benefits from the premature deaths of smokers. Despite potential legal

repercussions surrounding the statement, of greatest concern to Philip

Morris will be protecting the "new corporate image" it has so

desperately attempted to brand in the US. The company should attempt to

convince Americans that these statements were an error in judgment

rather than their corporate mantra. More advertisements praising the

philanthropic activities of its Kraft and Miller subsidiaries would be

wise; this would help Philip Morris deflect criticism of its tobacco


STEPHEN O'KEEFE, O'Keeffe & Company, McLean, VA

It is our understanding that Philip Morris has publicly renounced this

report, committed that it will not generate or commission future reports

at this time, and apologized to the Czech and US publics for its

inappropriate behavior. At this juncture, the best thing for it to do is

to minimize its public profile until the stigma of this situation has

dissipated. The organization should use this public quiet period to

build a new platform and basis for its public relations programs. It is

critical that Philip Morris establish a firm, credible, defensible, and

ethical basis for its external communications. Failure to do so will not

only compromise the brand and sales position, but such action has the

potential to re-light the anti-tobacco lobby and stimulate additional

legal action. Furthermore, this experience underscores the requirement

for the organization to establish an internal review program to prevent

future launch of "unsanctioned" initiatives and distribution of


DEBORAH BROWN, Senior director, PepperCom, New York

Although Philip Morris's statement was completely outrageous and

inexcusable, the fact that they publicly apologized is a step, albeit a

very small one, in the right direction. It's obvious that Philip Morris

needs to seriously reposition itself in order to regain credibility with

the public. The company should immediately do three things in order to

begin repairing its reputation. 1. Partner itself with a consumer

watchdog group that will carefully monitor the company under a

microscope and objectively report on its efforts; 2. Increase the amount

it donates to various non-profit organizations, focusing on additional

health-related organizations; 3. Agree to increase educational programs

aimed at teaching children not to smoke. Philip Morris has to prove to

the public that it's serious this time about "changing." Otherwise, the

company runs the risk of its image permanently going up in smoke.

KEITH APPELL, VP of accounts, Creative Response Concepts, Alexandria,


The language used in the apologies was excellent, but only a first step.

Philip Morris needs to fire all of those involved in commissioning these

studies, and obtain confidentiality statements from each of them. They

then need to make public the fact that these people have been fired. The

public must see the company taking forceful action after using such

strong language, otherwise it's a meaningless mea culpa. This action

will make it easier to resist interview requests; any interviews on this

will be no-win situations. They then need to pull their television ads

from the large markets and the coasts but continue running them in the

rural parts of the country. After about two months, they can begin

filtering the ads back onto the air in the larger markets.

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