28% of Americans Think Wal-Mart Is the Friendly Giant

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Wed, Nov 29 - 12:30 am EDT | 7 years ago by
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Wal-Mart pumps millions into public relations campaigns.

walmart logoWal-Mart rated top corporate citizen in U.S.

Coincidence? We think not.

Forbes Magazine reports that more Americans named Wal-Mart as a socially responsible corporation than any other American company. Given that Wal-Mart is the second largest corporation in the world, it’s not surprising that it would show up in the survey. The fact that it outranks any other company is surprising, says pollster Charles Fombrun, given the negative publicity the retailer has received about its business practices and treatment of employees.

Perhaps the public relations campaigns are paying off. A recent effort to improve the retail giant’s reputation emphasizes some environmentally friendly products offered at Wal-Mart. After years of ignoring its critics, Wal-Mart is making a concerted effort to improve its image.

“A couple of years ago, financial performance was everything. Today it’s part of everything,” says Leslie Gaines-Ross, of PR firm Weber Shandwick, in the Forbes article.

I haven’t looked into what exact questions were asked in this survey, but the analysis in Forbes seems to suggest that, as much as Wal-Mart’s $245 million in mostly local corporate donations, the company probably also benefits from the perception that low prices are “socially responsible,” in the way they help average people save on expenses.

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  • http://positiveposition.com/blog Ike

    One of the key differences here is Wal-Mart had a decades-old tradition of giving money to local causes. When the recent PR emphasis materialized, there was a track record to speak of.

    Had Wal-Mart tried building a PR campaign out of whole cloth — simply buzzwords and branding — there would have been far more hollow echos and harrumphs. Sadly, too many PR advisors are bullied by their clients who already “know” what the prescription ought to be before a real diagnosis. Reality is what it is… and effective messages reflect reality.

  • http://www.commonsensepr.com Eric Eggertson

    Good point, Ike. Corporate citizenship is a long-term investment. And when you’re not helping out locally, everyone who’s involved in a community group or local charity knows about it.

  • http://intopr.prblogs.org Owen Lystrup

    Wal-Mart’s tradition is definitely a large ingredient, but I also think that Wal-Mart draws the most attention to its philanthropic efforts, almost as if it was compensating for something.

    The locality of Wal-Mart’s efforts too reinforce the image of a giving company. It’s one thing to hear about what a company does for nonprofits or for the environment; it’s different to actually experience it in your hometown. And Wal-Mart is in a lot of hometowns.

    A company like Apple, for example, would never be able to keep up. It’s home is in Cupertino, and it only has stores in a handful or large cities.

  • http://commonsensepr.com Eric Eggertson

    I know it seems cynical for a company to spend money raising awareness about its donations, but I agree with that approach. It helps the groups you’re supporting by raising their profile, and it’s good for employee morale, too.

    Sure, they could put the PR and advertising money into even more donations, but then nobody would know about it. If a corporation makes meaningful charitable acts in the forest and no one hears, did it really happen?

    (Well, actually, yes it does happen, but allow me to try to warp this analogy to my purposes.)

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