NEW YORK, June 15—From its earliest days, Ketchum has been a leader in the food and nutrition sector, creating one of the PR industry’s first test kitchens in its San Francisco office and working with a blue-chip roster of commodity and branded product clients. Now the firm is looking to build on that leadership, adding greater strength in the issues management and corporate reputation management.

Linda Eatherton, most recently vice president of public and industry communications for Dairy Management, has joined Ketchum as executive vice president and director of its food and nutrition practice. She will be responsible for working with firm’s food practice leaders around the world to strengthen key client relationships, develop new business, an create cross-disciplined account teams.

According to Rob Flaherty, senior partner for global practices at the agency, “Linda brings an extensive range and depth of experience in the food arena. She’s successfully led major branded and commodity food marketing communications programs, provided strategic counsel and leadership on significant food-related issues, as well as corporate reputation and positioning programs both internal and external. With experience in agency, corporate and association settings, she will bring great value and insight to our clients and account teams.”

Eatherton spent five years at Dairy Management, which manages the $180 million marketing, research, technology and education programs of the American Dairy Association and the National Dairy Council. She was responsible for industry and shareholder communications and served as spokesperson and strategist for issues and crisis situations.

On the agency side, Eatherton has twice run her own business and, in the late 1980s, was a vice president at Edelman Public Relations in Chicago, supervising food and consumer accounts. She also served for five years as the lead public relations counsel for Kraft Foods’ frozen products division and later, the retail cheese group. She served on Kraft’s corporate communications crisis strategy and response team, handling issues such as product safety and quality; fat substitute technology and obesity; as well as plant and labor related situations.

NEW YORK—Ketchum has promoted senior vice presidents Chris Smith and Diane Weiser to directors of its New York healthcare practice. Smith joined Ketchum in 1995 and works on clients such as Aventis, AstraZeneca, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Johnson & Johnson, and Pharmacia. Weiser joined Ketchum in early 1999 and has built significant relationships with Pfizer, Aventis and Roche.