LONDON: Tobacco giant Philip Morris Limited has hired Amanda Pierce as head of communications, a newly created position.
Pierce will join Philip Morris Limited, the U.K. and Ireland affiliate of Philip Morris International, on September 3. She will be based in London and report to Mark MacGregor, Philip Morris Limited’s corporate affairs director.
Philip Morris Limited is responsible for the merchandising of Philip Morris International brands in the U.K. Pierce is joining Philip Morris International at a time when it’s trying to replace cigarettes with e-cigarettes and heated tobacco in some markets. Her remit includes corporate PR, external comms, stakeholder engagement, CSR, campaigns, and employee engagement in the U.K. and Ireland.
Pierce told PRWeek that people might be "surprised" by her decision to join the tobacco giant, but noted that she did her "homework."
"The company has changed and it’s continuing to undertake huge steps in its transformation," she said. "You see the recent commitments and activity supporting a smoke-free future. And they need the best talent to help to create that huge impact across public health, which is why they have this newly created role."
Pierce added that she embraces the challenge of "changing mindsets" in a regulated environment. Part of this entails educating smokers on the less-harmful alternatives available, she said.
Collaborations with governments, health organizations, and the creative, media, and communications community will be a key pillar in Philip Morris International’s move to transform its business, she added.
Pierce said she wouldn’t be able to comment on details of those partnerships, or on whatever agency review Philip Morris International might be launching until she started in her role. She also declined to break out the comms department’s headcount or the number of direct reports.
"It is a small team, considering the challenge ahead," Pierce said. "We’re looking to grow that by attracting talent."
Most recently, Pierce was the CEO of Burson-Marsteller U.K. for four years. She left that position in July 2017 and was succeeded by her second-in-command, COO Stephen Day. After Burson’s merger with fellow WPP firm Cohn & Wolfe, Day was "made redundant," and replaced by Rebecca Grant, an MD at Cohn & Wolfe.
During her nine-year run at Burson-Marsteller, Pierce also served as head of corporate and crisis for the U.K. and EMEA, and director and MD for the corporate, issues, and technology practice before that.
A statement listed Shell, DeBeers, Kimberly-Clark, Danone, and GSK as some of her clients. It also said she was involved in a collaboration with Harvard Business School that resulted in a training program for the top 450 executives of Bayer to help them engage stakeholders.
Prior to serving at Burson-Marsteller, Pierce had a 16-year tenure at McDonald’s, serving as head of PR and internal comms, and media relations manager. A statement credited her with reversing falling sales and increasing McDonald’s trust scores by 10 points over the course of two years.
Philip Morris International announced it was quitting cigarettes in January 2018.
Marian Salzman, former Havas PR North America CEO, joined Philip Morris International as SVP of comms in April 2018. In June, Salzman appealed to the marketing and comms industry to join Philip Morris International’s mission at the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
Under the Philip Morris International umbrella are cigarette brands such as L&M, Marlboro, and Parliament. Its smoke-free alternatives include e-vapor companies, Solaris, and IQOS. While Solaris devices produce nicotine-carrying vapor that don’t contain tobacco, IQOS products heat the tobacco itself to produce a vapor that can be inhaled.