I love Wal-Mart’s convenience, store hours and low prices. Of all the merchants that get a chunk of my money, Wal-Mart probably gets the most.
But when it comes to PR, I’d give Wal-Mart the booby prize. A story in the July 25 issue of PR Week says Wal-Mart has begun a media relations and community outreach effort to improve its image in New York as it looks for future sites for local stores. Residents in Queens and Staten Island are protesting Wal-Mart’s plans to build stores there.
So the retailing giant has started advertising in local newspapers. It has arranged meetings with leaders of the five boroughs. It’s even interviewing with reporters from papers like the New York Daily News and New York Post, and spreading its message that Wal-mart provides good jobs and career opportunities.
Sorry, but it seems like too little, too late. Wal-Mart’s “screw you” attitude with the media over the years has done far more damage than even the best PR campaign can attempt to mend.
Crisis counselor Jonathan Bernstein, who was my guest during a teleseminar titled “How to Keep the Media Wolves at Bay” a few years ago, says one his favorite sayings about media relations is “Treat the media as you would any other watchdogs. Stay calm, be friendly, let them sniff your hand and never turn your back.”
Until now, Wal-Mart has ignored that advice. Now it finds itself dealing with a pack of media wolves far bigger and meaner than ever. And Wal-Mart has no one but itself to blame.