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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Surviving the Storm: Handling a Public Relations Crisis
Seasoned experts share corporate crises on
March 29 at URI

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 15, 2000 -- What would you do if you were W.R. Grace and the best selling-novel, "A Civil Action," about a lawsuit over the leukemia deaths of young children, supposedly resulting from toxic industrial chemicals from a Grace facility, had just been turned into a big Hollywood movie starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall?

This is just one of the public relations crises seasoned public relations experts will share during a provocative and frank panel discussion on Wednesday, March 29 at the University of Rhode Island at 7:30 p.m.

The evening launches the Manning, Selvage & Lee Distinguished Newsmaker Lecture Series at URI. Free and open to the public, the event will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Galanti Lounge of the URI Library. New York- headquartered Manning, Selvage & Lee, one of the top five public relations firms in the country, fund the annual series.

Panelist Jack Agnew, senior partner, AGNEW CARTER/MS&L will tell how he helped W.R. Grace, a far different company under different management in 1998 than when the firm settled the lawsuit, get its message across before its reputation was damaged by the release of "A Civil Action." Working against time and a $50-million marketing budget from Walt Disney, Agnew will outline what W.R. Grace did to let the public and the media know what it stood for, believed in, and practiced in its environmental policies before the movie blitz overwhelmed them.

Carol Makovich, a 1975 URI alumna and vice president, Worldwide Media Relations at IBM's corporate headquarters in New York, will recount her days during the mid 1990s as vice president of RJR Nabisco, Inc., a multinational consumer-products company. RJR Nabisco was under siege both by tobacco activists and dissident shareholders. For the corporate communications team that meant creating communications that clarified complex legal issues and managing a high-profile proxy battle and other challenges to management's long-term strategy. From shareholders to consumers, RJR Nabisco faced important questions requiring thoughtful answers.

Kirk Stewart, vice president of Corporate Communications for Nike Inc., and Lonny Unger, a 1977 URI alumnus who is executive vice president, Worldwide Operations and managing director of Manning, Selvage & Lee, Inc. round out the panel.

The panel will be moderated by Dr. J. David Pincus who has devoted his professional life as a practitioner, researcher, counselor/coach and teacher to the practice and study of management and employee communications systems, and organizational change and leadership, and their impact on organizational performance.

URI's Journalism and Communications Departments are coordinating the evening.

Winifred Brownell, Dean of Arts & Sciences at URI, notes, "This new lecture series provides students with an opportunity to learn about the challenges confronted by public relations experts. We are very pleased that this inaugural program features two highly successful URI alumni. We especially want to thank Manning Selvage & Lee, Inc. for its foresight and generosity in endowing this exciting educational series."

For further information about the event, call URI's Communications Studies at 874-2552.

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For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116



 

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