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WASHINGTON -- Crisis communication is something with which Amy Philpott has had a lot of experience in recent years, but unlike many produce industry executives, it's something she enjoys.

Ms. Philpott left her post as vice president of communications at the United Fresh Produce Association and has taken a new job with Watson Mulhern, a public relations consulting firm that specializes in crisis communication among other services.

"I love the produce industry," said Ms. Philpott, reflecting on her five-year tenure with the association that ended Feb. 20. United has come a long way and has grown tremendously in recent years in its offerings to members, she said. "I'm just glad I'm not going too far."

Watson Mulhern, based here, handles media relations, issue management and other public relations services for the food and agriculture industries and lists the United Fresh Produce Association as one of its clients.

Starting her career at United Fresh as a marketer, Ms. Philpott broadened her expertise to communications and completed a graduate degree in communications from American University last May. With her new degree in hand, Ms. Philpott realized that she enjoyed handling some of the "most challenging times" the produce industry trade organization had to endure. "I click into another gear," she said, referring to her communications skills during crises like last summer's Jalape?o-associated Salmonella outbreak. "I become very deliberate, planned and determined."

She also learned the value of a good communications strategy as one of the staff members who started United Fresh's recall training courses, saying that she was surprised by how many companies have not conducted mock recalls in preparation for such an event and even more astounded by how many companies failed to include a communication component in their recall plans.

If you don't have a communication component, you're "only doing a traceability exercise," said Ms. Philpott. "For nine out of 10 companies, there's a positive story to be told in every unfortunate situation."

Ms. Philpott said that she also enjoyed planning the communication strategy around issues, such as the farm bills, school snack program and other nutrition policies.

Media duties at United will now fall on Communications Manager Patrick Delaney, who was hired for the new post Sept. 8, until a new vice president is selected, she said. Additional responsibilities will be spread out among other staff members.