Walmart Chooses to Show Face Rather Than Lose It

 Walmart Chooses to Show Face Rather Than Lose It

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Walmart showing face.

Thanksgiving in America is a celebration of abundance, but not so for workers at Walmart. Just before the holiday break, petition group MoveOn.Org released a statement about Walmart  setting up a food drive to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving – not for the homeless or a charity bank but for their own workers.

A long-known fact that minimum wage is not a living wage has received special attention in the past year. McDonald’s employee budget sheet would have been laughable had the need for it not been so dire. Employees of fast food restaurants and retail stores are barely able to pay bills, buy food, clothe their families.

Yesterday, TV news magazine CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on “Fight for 15,” a campaign to raise minimum wage to at least $15 (the federal minimum wage starts at $7.25 and is adjusted at the state level). The report noted that “of all the corporations Sunday Morning reached out to, Walmart was the only one that would provide an interview.” While David Tovar, Walmart’s VP of Communications, was only quoted as saying that they “don’t want people to stay in entry-level jobs very long,” the fact that the demonized company allowed an interview was a bold move indeed.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to Walmart for showing face toward an ugly accusation.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Silence is not always golden.”Guilty as charged” is the only conclusion the public can, and will, draw from a corporation that turns down a request for interview. Given the way the Sunday Morning segment was edited whether direct questions weren’t asked or weren’t answered is unclear but Walmart main PR point was made: Walmart creates jobs. Not the entire story, to be sure, but the PR task at hand was to remove the demon mask from the corporation. Keep the good face on and there may be reason for all to give thanks.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

Jamie Dornan 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers“A” (PR PERFECT) to Universal Studios and Focus Features, for beating back the bad news of losing their lead actor in the highly anticipated film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. The BDSM-themed movie is set to begin filming next month, but two weeks ago a painful setback was suffered when actor Charlie Hunnam, a hotly debated pick for Grey, freed himself from the role. PR flaks tortured fans with a variety of possible replacements. Yesterday,  rumors hit the media that former Calvin Klein model turned actor Jamie Dornan (pictured) was nearly tied down for the role. Far from being spanked by adversity, the studios managed to keep the film’s buzz hot and have fans begging for more.

mcds The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to McDonald’s, chastised again last week for appearing indifferent to the plight of its lowest-paid workers. Activists seeking higher wages in the fast-food industry embarrassed the super-sized chain with a recording of a call one worker made to the company’s employee help line. The worker, who after 10 years as a cashier earns $8.25 an hour, was advised to sign up for food stamps to supplement her income. McDonald’s, playing defense, said all its employees, which number in the hundreds of thousands, have opportunities for advancement within the company. But it continues to lose the PR war on this issue: With more than half of its workers on public assistance, its low wages cost taxpayers $1.2 billion annually – an easy number to contrast with the $1.5 billion in profits it earned last quarter.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO THERE THERE” AWARD to a rather bizarre discussion about the physical build of one Captain Robert Durand, who runs public affairs for the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a recent piece about reforming the base’s checkered image, The Washington Post described Durand as “thickset.” One presumes an indignant phone call begat the correction that followed this week, which flatly stated that the adjective was incorrect and should have said “muscular” instead. The New Republic jumped into the fray, opining that Durand looked neither thickset nor muscular in a recent photo. Slate, the online magazine, offered “fit” as a more appropriate descriptor. Whose image were we worried about again? Oh that’s right, the base’s….

McDonald’s Budget Tool Doesn’t Add Up

 McDonalds Budget Tool Doesnt Add Up

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for McDonald’s.

An attempt by fast food giant McDonald’s to help employees manage their finances has left a bad taste in workers’ mouths. The burger chain is being grilled this week for a sample budget contained in its brochure “Practical Money Skills,” part of a financial literacy program McDonald’s created with Visa and Wealth Watchers International. The budget suggests that an individual who makes $1,105 a month after taxes – about what a McDonald’s minimum-wage worker brings home – would need a second income of nearly the same amount to pay for basic monthly expenses. And even those expenses are debatable: the budget assumes rent or mortgage of a mere $600, health insurance for $20 a month, and a daily spending goal of $25 from which, presumably, things like gas, food, and child care are all supposed to be drawn.

The problem is not that the budget isn’t realistic; it’s that it is. McDonald’s inadvertent message to its workforce is, without a second job, you probably can’t survive on what we pay most of you. And that’s exactly what its workers have been saying in protests across the US. The project’s PR folks clumsily compounded the problem, saying it was only a sample budget (so it wasn’t meant to be accurate?) and that the “second job” was a theoretical partner’s wages (quite an assumption, and all the expenses appear to be individualized). McDonald’s also surreptitiously added in $50 in heating costs after the original plan presumed workers in chillier climates would simply shiver through the winter.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for McDonald’s, which is already fighting wage-related battles with employees in several states. This blunder gives workers some fine ammunition.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: All communications are public relations. The line between internal and external communications is effectively gone; all company materials must be looked at with a critical eye for the PR impact they might have. Most large companies have already learned this lesson – some the hard way – but still don’t understand it applies well beyond the company-wide memo from the CEO. As McDonald’s found out, even such well-intentioned projects as a financial planning tool for workers can cause reputational indigestion.

Burger King’s Big Fat Risk

The New Burger King Bacon Sundae 300x205 Burger Kings Big Fat Risk

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Burger King and their new bacon sundae.

While the controversy about America’s out-of-control obesity epidemic rages unabated Burger King is cheerfully hitting the headlines with a revamped summer menu. What’s new and exciting? A bacon sundae.

The world’s second-largest hamburger chain is offering vanilla soft-serve ice cream topped with fudge, caramel, bacon crumbles, and a slice of bacon. The salty-sweet bacon sundae has 18 grams of fat, 61 grams of sugar, and approximately 510 calories.

Burger King has not yet made it clear how this new “summer only” product launch, works with an earlier campaign that had the chain targeting a broader demographic. With much fanfare, that menu was then expanded to include fruit smoothies, wraps, and salads.  Take the summer off,  Burger King now seems to be telling weight-conscious America, and relax . . . with a bacon sundae.

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Burger King. New launches like this undermine claims that the industry is dedicated to helping solve the national obesity problem. Why not mitigate by coming out with a new lo-cal smoothie at the same time?

PR Takeaway: Actions needs to mirror words. If the fast food industry wants to be taken seriously and viewed as friend, not a foe, in the health debate, then it would be better to stand behind the wraps and smoothies they rolled out earlier. The bacon sundae is bound not to win over health advocates. Any more of these launches, and Burger King could find itself fighting the unloved corner in the national conversation about obesity. Just ask Big Tobacco what that feels like.

What’s your PR Verdict on BK’s bacon sundae? Tell us by leaving a comment, below.

PR Verdict in the news: Today’s NY Times quotes the PRV re Goldman Sachs, click here to see what we had to say.