Retail Detail

April 17, 2006: 11:32 am: Retail Detail

The second verse is apparently NOT the same as the first.

After years of ignoring public relations and the media (and, to their credit, growing like crazy), Wal-Mart changed directions last year. Tired of being on the short end of every comparison with media-friendly Target, the Arkansas retail giant hosted a “get-to-know-us” camp at headquarters last year.

The media that did get that access treated it with a healthy dose of skepticism, and Wal-Mart came away no worse than it was going in.

This time around, the “PR for the PR machine” is already spinning a new line — that reporters will drive the sessions. Wal-Mart is pledging to spend more time “listening” to find out what journalists want and need, and a better way of delivering it.

Expect to see some coverage of the Wal-Mart detractors, who have built a healthy cottage industry of their own. And expect Wal-Mart to get better at this PR thing as it goes. Baby steps, baby.

September 17, 2005: 1:50 pm: Retail Detail

And it’s not mine.

It’s Wal-Mart.

I’ve told you the “Beast from Bentonville” wasn’t going to sit back and take the licks any longer.

Of course, it’s not hard to look good when compared to FEMA.

May 18, 2005: 11:15 pm: Retail Detail

As a rule, I don’t generally try to rip off other people’s blogs, but B.L. Ochman’s “What’s Next Blog” has a great cautionary tale about getting too cute with your decorations.

Let’s just say that if you’re a major retailer trying to score major publicity at a media opportunity that you are in full control of… and that event involves dressing up the venue with a bunch of toilets… you really ought to let people know they aren’t hooked up to anything.

“We have had people use this nonfunctional bathroom all night, which does not even have any plumbing,” lamented Samuel Coplan, who helped install the display in the pre-fab rooms set up to showcase Target’s home furnishings. “Some poor [people] will just clean it up in the morning.”

April 20, 2005: 4:25 pm: Retail Detail

We’ve documented the ins and outs of Wal-Mart’s shift in public relations strategy.
(That is, a shift from nothing to something.)

Since PR and marketing tend to be bigger losers when the economy and budgets tighten, we now have a classic laboratory case for just how much ‘media savvy’ is truly worth.

MSN Money asks the question, Can Wal-Mart’s PR campaign save its stock?

Also — with Wal-Mart now answering the challenge of its critics, will some of the heat transfer to other retailers?

CNN/Money looks at what could be the end of the free ride for Target.

April 5, 2005: 5:32 pm: Retail Detail

When you’re as big as Wal-Mart, and you’ve been this silent for so long, the fact that you are talking is enough to make news.

The mega-mega-retailer is hosting a two-day media blitz in Bentonville, no doubt to start bending editorial ears to their spin on various issues.

For the longest time, Wal-Mart was able to enjoy the 8,000-pound gorilla position, and didn’t have to address critics. The corporate growth curve was still sharp and steep, and if it ain’t broke…

…we’ll know in the next few days about how well Wal-Mart’s spin legions are able to handle the pre-emptive counterstrikes. Labor organizations are feeding the media frenzy in the final hours, hoping to shape the debate.

This can be an effective tactic, when you know a competitor or adversary is on the brink of unveiling a new effort or campaign. At the very least, it projects your position as that of equal footing, and gives you at least a chance to frame the issues from your perspective.

Given the number of contentious issues that has hounded Wal-Mart in recent years (lawsuits over gender equity and the use of illegal aliens, predatory pricing practices, contracting out of the US…) this is probably a wise move. Any extra time Wal-Mart spends dealing with “labor-prepped” media will likely translate into extra ink. Even if the issue winds up being a wash, you’re still getting free publicity for your cause, and even re-energizing your own base.

What you do give up, though, is the chance to get the last word. Wal-Mart will likely counter with a series of talking points, and given the fact they’ve had years to work on them, they’ll probably be pretty good ones. That’s a trade-off you have to consider when you time your releases and points to meet the other guy’s calendar.