December 31, 2004

How the Press Treats WM...

Dave Friedman links to ALP (thanks!), and writes the following excellent commentary:

Wal-Mart is famous for protecting its image and its brand and it no doubt is well aware of the existence of this blog. Wal-Mart has also been attracting a lot of scrutiny in recent years from all manner of press, both pro and con. When some big event or controversy occurs (and it undoubtedly will, despite Wal-Mart's attempts to control its destiny) the event or controversy will get wide play in the press and the blogosphere will react quickly to publicize the issue. How does Wal-Mart, or for that matter, any company handle the prospect that bad press is instantaneous, and the uncontrollable cauldron of the blogosphere is largely responsible for the speed with which information travels from conventional media? Conventional media, of course, will contact Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart will have its spin faithfully recapitulated in the mainstream media. But the further the news item gets from its mainstream media source, the less of an impact Wal-Mart's PR machine will have. The blogosphere is the radical conclusion of the premise of disintermediation upon which the internet upended scores of entrenched industries.

Which blog will bring Wal-Mart to its knees?

[Empasis Added]

To answer the last question--most likely, not this one. If WM is to be crushed by a blog, it will be one with deep connections in the Walton family, or in the WM executive hierarchy...

Wal-Mart does manage its brand name as well as it can, but in my opinion it's doing a rather poor job of getting it's "we're not evil" message across. I believe WM opponents--labor unions, environmentalists, feminists, human rights organizations--are (overall) viewed sympathetically by the press; reporters are far more sympathetic to a unique story of worker exploitation than to Wal-Mart's history of lowering the cost of living for millions.

When its opponents scream "poverty wages", quote wage statistics 5 years out of date, lie about the actual benefits available to associates, pretend that scandals at a dozen stores are representative of all 3000, Wal-Mart counters in strong words that fall on deaf ears.

In the nonbusiness press, Wal-Mart is guilty until proven innocent. The way the "Wal-Mart debate" is presented, the charges (like sex discrimination) are just assumed true. In most news stores, Wal-Mart a spokesman is usually given a chance to rebut the paragraph-long charges in a few sentences. Wal-Mart's spin is "faithfully recapitulated," it is usually given a submissive position to its opponents spin.

In short, while the business press is mostly and fairly positive about WM and its economic impact, the nonbusiness press would really like Wal-Mart to go the way of the 5 and 10--if it is not to be unionized.

This is a good place to point out that Wal-Mart corporate has never contacted me, although some store-level employees have. I think WM is smart enough--unlike some other companies--to not interfere with the operation of ALP or my 1st amendment rights...

Posted by Kevin on December, 31 2004 at 10:08 AM