Is Steve Parrish the highest paid person in PR? Perhaps. According to the NYTimes Magazine the senior vice president of corporate affairs at Altria (think Philip Morris and Malboro pulled in a cool $14m last year.
The revealing read points as much to his personal transformation as to the shift in position and message at Philip Morris – a company that has evolved from claiming that cigarettes weren’t addictive and an individual choice to one in which they “area addictive and cause the disease and death of hundreds of thousands of people every year”; and, “when you set tobacco on fire and inhale it into your lungs, bad things happen”.
Moreover, Nocera’s piece points to the intrinsic link between communications strategy and business strategy. Philip Morris has shifted from a position vehemently opposed to the regulation of the industry to supporting it, for instance. In doing so the message has caused a shift in some of its opponents message.
“There is no question, then, that Parrish and Philip Morris USA are hoping that regulation could help lead the company to reclaim some legitimacy. From a business perspective, that could result in a higher stock price…”
This is arguably one of the most dramatic and socially significant shifts in message we have seen undertaken by a corporation.