Walmart Picks a Fight with The New York Times: Good PR or Bad?


Image: BusinessInsider.com

Image: BusinessInsider.com

Walmart is a brand perpetually under fire for one reason or another. The mega-retailer has come under fire numerous times over the years for pushing shoddy products, driving smaller companies out of business, executing unfair labor practices, and basically running a feudal enterprise that pays employees just enough to keep them without allowing them to improve their economic standing.

Rather than run damage control against accusations of unethical business practices, legitimate or otherwise, Walmart has taken a new, decidedly more controversial approach.

In response to a piece written last week by New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, Walmart’s vice president of corporate communications, David Tovar, executed a harsh, sarcastic blog post, writing that he “couldn’t overlook how wildly inaccurate it is.”

Tovar’s approach was to treat Egan’s column as a journalism student’s assignment that he was grading. Complete with notes scribbled in red pen, Tovar tore apart Egan’s piece, refuting a number of points in his article. Egan has since responded with some comments of his own, and now the battle is joined.

Whatever your opinion of Walmart—and few of us are ambivalent about Walmart, so try to let your objectivity shine here—the real question to ask is whether or not this was a good PR move on the part of the retailer.

On the plus side:

  • Exposure. A simple, well-worded response to the Times op-ed page refuting Egan’s statement would probably have been published, but it would have been quickly forgotten. Tovar’s approach certainly drew more attention to Walmart’s side of the story.
  • Creativity. Responding to Egan’s piece as if it were the submission of a first-year journalism student is certainly original. It has sparked interest in the media and initiated a broader conversation that would otherwise not have taken place.

On the minus side:

  • Choose your battles. It’s a long-held truth that it is not good business to get into a battle with members of the media. It’s hard to generate good PR for your brand when you’ve made enemies with reporters or certain news outlets.
  • Professionalism is important. Snark is more prevalent in today’s society, but that doesn’t make it good business. Never let emotion get the better of you if you find yourself in a dust-up with a reporter. Stick to the facts you can prove, and leave it at that.

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell




Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

avatar

About Richard Brownell

Richard Brownell is Content Manager, PR Events at PR News. He has several years' experience in developing and producing online events. Richard is a published author with several titles for young audiences to his credit. He has also written political commentary for several popular websites and his stage plays have been produced in New York and other major cities.



Deals of the Week

Get $150 Off PR News'Crisis Management Boot Camp

Crisis_Boot_banners_175x135_ep

Join PR News on September 15, 2014, at the historic Yale Club in New York City for an intensive boot camp will put you through the paces of crisis communications to help you avoid, or at least mitigate, the damage that can come to a brand.

Use code “150off” at checkout.

Get $50 off PR News' Media Relations Guidebook

book-mediarelations-180x150

This 8-chapter resource contains practical implications for some of the most innovative developments in media relations, including the technologies, methodologies and mannerisms that determine the ecosystem in which PR pros practice this essential part of their craft.

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.