Wal-Mart, Anything You Would Like to Say?

walmart Wal Mart, Anything You Would Like to Say?

The PR Verdict: “A” for Wal-Mart and an elegant way to decline comment.

Big trouble ahead for retailer Wal-Mart.  The firm is reeling from Sunday’s NYTimes which claimed that as far back as 2005, Wal-Mart’s big wigs learned of allegations of widespread bribery of government officials in Mexico by its own peeps but did nothing about it.

At heart is an allegation that the internal review conducted by Wal-Mart at the time was a whitewash.  Allegedly conducted by some of the very same people who stood accused of paying up to $25 million in bribes, the NYTimes suggests the firm not only failed to investigate the matter properly but also failed to notify the relevant authorities.  In so doing the firm and its management are now potentially exposed to seriously punitive penalties.

What to say to the NYTimes?  Priority one in a case like this is to buy time and establish distance between what is alleged and where the company is now.  Wal-Mart’s besieged PR commented, “If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.  We are deeply concerned by the allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened.”

The PR Verdict: “A” for Wal-Mart’s response,  an elegant way to decline comment.  As an immediate PR response it established the allegations are unclear, circumstances vague and not what the firm is about.

PR Takeaway:  When in doubt buy time and create distance from the allegation.  While a legal investigation and fallout could take years, the damage to the stock price, relations with regulators and overall reputation will start hurting immediately.  There is very little time.  Suspend or remove the implicated management from the day-to-day workings of the firm.  The faster Wal-Mart can say that was then, this is now, the better for its stockholders.  This is going to be a crisis communications strategy that will have to run and run.

To read the original article click here and to read more click here.

What’s your verdict on Wal-Marts’s response?

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Why Are Rebekah And Her Friends Still In Trouble?

rebekahbrooks 300x168 Why Are Rebekah And Her Friends Still In Trouble?

The PR Verdict: “F” for a crisis strategy that is failing.

Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International and best buddy of Rupert and James Murdoch has been arrested for the second time.  Previously arrested last year, she is hitting the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. This time speculation is that the arrest concerns a charge of perverting the course of justice. Tough times ahead.

Despite endless protests from News International denying knowledge of widespread phone hacking and corruption of public officials, the arrests proceed and the parliamentary inquiry deepens. Public rage continues unabated.

In terms of crisis management, the hacking scandal was always a PR issue first and foremost.  Prioritising legal concerns over PR has been the major blunder.  As it happens things are looking bad on the legal front anyway.

The PR Verdict: “F” for a crisis management strategy that is failing.   Is it possible that News International’s ordeal might have been shorter-lived if PR concerns had driven and shaped the crisis strategy, with legal concerns in second place?

Pubic and political pressures have a nasty habit of taking a crisis in surprising directions.  What might have happened if News International had conceded wrongdoing and made amends at the outset?  The closing of News of the World, millions paid out in damages, the BSKYB acquisition blocked and multiple staff arrests could hardly be described as a strategic success.  It might have been wiser to take an earlier hit with a PR strategy that paid less attention to legal risk and prioritised reforming the company and closing the issue. No doubt Rebekah can tell us more in court.

To read about the latest arrests click here. To read more background about the phone hacking scandal click here.

Is there a news item that you think needs a grade? Send us your suggestion for the next PR Verdict: info@prverdict.com