Payoff Time for Wal-Mart’s Goodwill Chips

Facing a bribery scandal that could have serious implications on its reputation, and potential legal ramifications for its leadership, big box retailer Wal-Mart is now cashing in its chips collected from political campaign contributions and its work on behalf of popular causes, charity drives and more, says an article in The New York Times.

In forging both Republican and Democratic allies, supporting childhood nutrition and CSR initiatives like reducing carbon emissions, Wal-Mart hopes it will catch a break—both from the public and from Washington regulators, who have the power to issue sanctions against the company if the accusations of bribery in an effort to establish a retail stronghold in Mexico are proved accurate.

But will all of this goodwill and hard lobbying work pay off? Possibly, says Mike Herman, CEO of Communication Sciences International (and a member of the PR News Advisory Board), although he is unsure if the scandal or Wal-Mart’s previous good deeds and lobbying efforts would have an effect on the man and woman on the street. “Wal-Mart has become so interwoven into the fabric of the U.S.' community life, that it’s kind of like mom and apple pie,” says Herman. “I’m not sure what happens in Mexico even enters into the discussion in those communities.”

Herman also says that even controversial lobbying actions by Wal-Mart, like supporting the strengthening of self-defense laws in shooting incidents—which played a part in the passage of “Stand Your Ground” laws, prominent in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida—may not sway the public or legislators against the company. “A good portion of the U.S. might applaud whatever support Wal-Mart gave to that effort,” says Herman. “I don’t know what impact it will have in Washington, either. If the voters don’t care, neither do their representatives, and I don’t see a lot of phone calls or e-mails to Washington from the hinterlands asking them to 'do something about Wal-Mart.'"

So far, says the Times, politicians from both parties are standing by the company. If damaging facts come out in the bribery scandal, that support—and the worth of Wal-Mart's chips—just might change.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

Comments Off


About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

Deals of the Week

$150 Off PR News' Social Media Summit

socialmedia201602-180x150Join PR News in Huntington Beach, CA on Feb. 26 for the Social Media Summit, where you'll be immersed in real-world, tactical case studies from brands, nonprofits and agencies and get takeaways in pulling and analyzing social media data; emerging social platforms and apps and so much more. 

Use code “150” at checkout to save $150 o the regular rate.

$50 off the CSR & Green PR Guidebook

csr_vol7_print_digital-thumbPR News’ CSR & Green PR Guidebook, Vol. 7 captures best practices in communicating the positive relationships that organizations are building with their communities of interest. This six-chapter guidebook connects the dots between the effective communication of positive social contributions and corresponding improvements in bottom lines.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription



Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

Comments are closed.