Three Washington-based associations have joined forces to launch a $2.5 million advertising project to polish up the image of something most people take for granted -- the ubiquitous can.

Representatives from the the National Food Processing Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute and the American Iron and Steel Institute formed the Canned Food Marketing Committee last year in an attempt to add luster to what committee Chairman Fernando R. Gumucio called an industry that has been "stagnant" over the last 10 years. Gumucio is president of Del Monte Corp.'s dry grocery and beverage products division.

This is the first time in more than fifty 50 years that can makers have made an industry-wide effort to advertise its products, a council spokesman said.

The initial funds for the campaign came from $100,000 donations from both the American Can and Continental Can companies. The remainder of the campaign fund was donated by members of the three sponsoring industry associations.

The bulk of the donations came from food canners but contributions are still coming in from suppliers, growers and other related associations involved in the can industry, according to Roger Coleman, vice president of the National Food Processors Association.

The can-image drive was launched with a futuristic 30-second television commercial during the Super Bowl on Jan. 20. It featured a sultry lady robot, with the voice of actress Kathleen Turner, in the kitchen of her spaceship extolling the virtues of cans. The computer-animated robot will be featured in other campaign ads.

The promotional committee also will sponsor a major public relations and media campaign focusing on the nutrition and convenience of canned foods.

The canned food industry has suffered in the last 10 years as the popularity of frozen and fast foods has increased. Between 1973 and 1983, per capita consumption of canned vegetables declined 12.4 percent and canned fruit consumption fell 38.7 percent according to a study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. TRADE

Edison Electric Institute has elected Thomas R. Kuhn executive vice president. Kuhn has been president of the American Nuclear Energy Council for the last two years. He served as the council's vice president of government affairs for seven years before that. EEI represents the interests of a majority of the country's public electric utility companies.

The United States Telephone Association, the telecommunications industry's principal national lobbying group since the breakup of the Bell System in January 1984, has appointed Ward H. White vice president for public affairs. Since 1981, White has been senior counsel to the Senate Committe on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where he was chief of staff for the communications, consumer and merchant marine subcommittees.

The National Association of Manufacturers has appointed Robert N. Mottice director of taxation and fiscal policy. Mottice joins NAM after working in the economics department at Ashland College in Ohio since 1978.

Robert P. Straetz, chairman and chief executive officer of Textron Inc., in Providence, R.I., has been elected a member of the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Alan N. Darrow has been named vice president of administration for the National Business Aircraft Association. He succeeds John A. Pope, who retired at the end of 1984.

The National Soft Drink Association has appointed Julie P. McCahill to the new position of vice president of communications. McCahill was formerly senior Washington representative in public affairs for Mead Corp. PROFESSIONAL

Sally A. Behn, the president of Ferris & Company, a Washington-based investment firm, has become the first woman to serve as a director for the Securities Industry Association. SIA represents 90 percent of the securities businesses in the United States.

The National Treasury Employer Union has announced the appointment of George King as director of public relations. King has been in the communications field for 20 years, most recently as a journalism professor at Bradley University in Indiana.

The D.C. Metropolitan Subcontractors Association has elected Renato E. Ventura, the vice president of Miscellaneous Metals Inc. in Fredrick, as its president.

The Metropolitan Minority Business Enterprises, a group of minority business leaders in Baltimore, recently presented its Corporation of the Year awards to Joseph Seagram & Sons Inc., Bendix Field Engineering and Washington Gas Light for their dedication to the minority service industry in the Baltimore-Washington area. The minority business leaders who comprise MMBE are members of the Maryland/D.C. Minority Supplier Development Council, a professional service association that encourages major corporations to recruit minority service business. The council serves as an intermediary between its 94 member corporations and its 460 minority business owner members.

William H. Hansell Jr. has been elected chairman of the board of directors of Public Technology Inc., a nonprofit research association that aids government agencies in technological development. Hansell is the executive director of the International City Management Association.