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.

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.

When will the Greeks develop their own propaganda plan?

greece2 When will the Greeks develop their own propaganda plan?

The PR Verdict: “D” for Greece’s political class on selling austerity.

A collective sigh of relief reverberated across financial markets this weekend, as Greece approved its latest round of austerity measures. The measures are tough and include savage cuts in wages, pensions and a radical restructuring of outdated work practices.

While financial markets gave the changes a “thumbs-up” Greeks have given them a resounding “thumbs-down”.  Protestors in the capital have been rioting, with violent clashes reported throughout the country. Greeks are enraged about the level of sacrifice required and are pointing to Germany, the IMF and banks as the chief culprits.

The PR Verdict: “D” for Greece’s political class on selling these measures. It’s time Greece’s political class activated an educative PR plan.

A national campaign is needed where mutual sacrifice and the sharing of burdens are the order of the day. Start by enlisting the support of Greek intellectuals, celebrities and thought leaders to explain and personally describe, the sacrifices they are making for the greater good. For some pointers why not look at previous national propaganda programs that demanded sacrifices of their citizenry? History tells us it has been done before.

How would you convince the Greek population that sacrifice is for the long-term good?  Leave a comment and share your idea.