PR - Crisis and Management

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wal-Mart's new PR perspective

Wal-Mart owner Sam Walton has never been an advocate for the practice of public relations. The now deceased business tycoon was said to detest public relations, preferring to let Wal-Mart products and services speak for themselves. Under the new regime, public relations has taken on a special role in the corporate life of Wal-Mart, with company officials locking into a political campaign-like mentality to respond to critics of its labor and big box store setting strategies.

Recently, there have been reports that the company is looking for "triage" and "emergency response" specialists in its next key hires. Michael Barbaro reported that the executive search firm Crowe-Innes & Associates has been engaged to help find a director of media relations who can manage a "crisis communications program" and "triage" such crises "in rapid response mode." Hours of work: up to "24/7" according to the posting, which was released to the Times by one of Wal-Mart's biggest critics, Wal-Mart Watch.

A second job posting seeks a candidate who can address "high profile political activities" and "operate successfully in a campaign mode." Wal-Mart does not seem to worry about getting a bargain when it comes to hiring high level public relations professionals. In November, 2005, the New York Times reported that the company had hired the Edelman public relations firm, including ex-advisers from the camps of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and John Kerry.

Wal-Mart's new perspective on the importance of public relations, and more interestingly, crisis public relations further proves the point that no one is safe from a potential crisis, not even a business leader such as Wal-Mart. I find it hard to believe that public relations wasn't high on Wal-Mart's priority list prior to now seeing as they have been linked to so much negative publicity surrounding their labor relations and alleged discrimination in hiring. It will be interesting to see how an independent public relations firm will handle such a large and controversial account. I'd say, Edelman has their work cut out for them!

In other Wal-Mart news, CNN reported this morning that Wal-Mart plans to open 50 new stores in communities where crime and or unemployment rates are high. Critics say this plan is a superficial effort by the chain to create favorable publicity for the company. Wal-Mart claims the new stores will hundreds of thousands of dollars in state tax revenue and hundreds of new jobs to the communities where stores are being built.

New York Times: March 30, 2006


Blogger Erin said...

Jessica: You obviously have enough PR insight to be working in the industry. College is over-rated. Want a job? Perhaps a summer internship? Please send me a note through if so!

11:05 AM  

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