Wal-Mart Stores : Showing its face

A broadcast-oriented crisis statement reveals a well-prepared response.

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The Site

Wal-Mart Stores, the US supermarket giant, was quick to use its corporate Press Room to put out dynamic versions of an official response to a breaking bribery scandal involving its Mexican subsidiary. Walmart’s official statement after _The New York Times_ published an article last Saturday (21 April) alleging widespread and tolerated use of bribery in its Mexican operations has been available to journalists through its corporate website from the same day. A discreet link in the Recent News headlines on the Press Room section landing page leads to a multi-faceted presentation of the statement. The presentation is focused around an embedded video of the company’s Vice President, Corporate Communications reading a prepared response direct to camera. A transcript is run below the video and ends with a link to “the key events in Walmart’s anti-corruption compliance programs”, a dedicated page elsewhere in Press Room. The transcript can be downloaded in English and Spanish, while a link above the video viewing screen offers “broadcast quality soundbites” in both languages. The soundbites consist of B-roll excerpts from the full video statement. The uncut Spanish-language version of the video can be seen along with the English one on Walmart’s YouTube channel, which is linked from the viewing screen but is not embedded in the alternate Spanish version of the online statement page.

The Takeaway

Walmart’s swift reaction to the New York Times article shows not only an immediate awareness of its damaging potential (the share price dropped 5 per cent when markets reopened on Monday) but also adept – if limited – use of the web to distribute its official statement. That suggests both an integrated approach to corporate communications – the web (and YouTube) were not afterthoughts to a standard press release – and a response strategy already in place for just such a reputation crisis. By choosing to release videos of company spokespeople rather than simply post the statement the company in essence turned the presentation into a virtual press conference, with supporting resources (transcripts, ‘soundbite’ edits) attached catering to broadcast as well as print media – an unusual and also smart touch in the prevailing news landscape. Equally smart is the use of the site to provide supplementary tailored background (the ‘anti-corruption’ time line) and dual language provision.

First published 24 April, 2012
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