Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Wal-Mart PR 

Fast Company magazine printed a short interview with the head of PR for Wal-Mart. It's worth reading but it could have been three or four pages longer than it is.

Wal-Mart's PR executive, Mona Williams, has a tough job. She represents the largest retailer in the US and a major factor in the US economy. Wal-Mart's size makes it a target for every activist group that can find a thread of a reason for a demonstration. Wal-Mart's slip-ups in personnel matters have placed the company on the defensive and given unions a chance to organize. Wal-Mart's dedication to low prices has put it into a curious position of being a place where millions shop and complain about it at the same time because so much of Wal-Mart's goods come from China.

I'm not sure I would like to be in Ms Williams shoes. With as many stores as Wal-Mart has, someone is getting hurt every day. Something happens somewhere that causes embarrassment. Some store manager or store employee acts in an undesirable manner and turns off employees in spite of Wal-Mart's attention to customer service.

But that's the way it is with retailing. With Wal-Mart, the challenge is gigantic. I wish the article had said something about how the company structures itself for PR. I suspect the company has divisional and regional PR departments to handle local crises and the tough ones, the local PR units hand upstream to corporate.

If that is the case, Ms Williams never has a dull day.


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