It Doesn't Get
Much Better Than This ...
Some companies have it all.
Great brands, great service, great leaders.
It seems like they are the darlings of Wall Street, the press and their consumers as
well. In the retail industry, Target Stores and Home
Depot are two of those darlings, basking in the glory of positive press coverage ratings. We suspect that both of their PR departments have set
goals to keep that great coverage happening.
Proactive efforts are most likely behind the great press coverage seen consistently for
these two giants.
For Target, 69% of their news impressions in the last 4 weeks were
rated positively. Their positive to negative
impressions ratio was 69:1. Imagine that statistic
in terms of people. In a room of 70 people, 69 of
them saw or heard a positive story about Target and only 1 person saw a negative story. The news even showed that consumers
ask for Target stores to be opened in their
Home Depot had 68% positively rated news impressions during those same
4 weeks and a ratio of 34:1. In that same room of
70 people, 68 saw a positive story and only 2 saw negative news about Home Depot. In fact, fifteen hundred folks in Canon City, Colorado
showed up to welcome a new Home Depot to their neighborhood this month.
than this ...
Wal-Mart. They have positively rated press coverage too. In fact, almost as much as Target and Home Depot – over 7 million people
learned something positive from the media about Wal-Mart in the last 4
weeks. But that's not so exciting when the negative
impressions outweigh the good news by 10 times and the positive to negative ratio is 0.1:1. Measurement shows that, in the room of 70 people, there
were only 6 people who saw something good in the press about Wal-Mart and there were 64 people
who learned something bad.
Exactly what are Wal-Mart's goals for their
press coverage? Whatever they may be, Wal-Mart can
seemingly do no right when it comes to public relations. Though Wal-Mart enjoys the reputation of having "always low prices," they also
seem to be cursed with incredibly negative press coverage about everything from their leadership
and their workforce to their community contributions, their holiday season policies and their effect on
small business owners. How did Wal-Mart with
their extensive growth and consumer-friendly prices become the poster child of predatory and
immoral business practices?
Wal-Mart's press coverage is absent of examples
that would lead us to conclude that Wal-Mart is proactively using PR to further positive coverage
about itself. In fact, there is some evidence that
they may be in denial about the sheer quantity of poor press coverage that is causing their
growing unpopularity. In response to a recent
documentary entitled Wal-Mart: The High Cost of A Low
Price, "Robert McAdam, vice president of corporate
affairs for Wal-Mart, said attacks on Wal-Mart ... have been launched mainly by those aligned with
'liberal political causes' and are based on erroneous charges. 'Our view is that primarily these messages are going to people who already
don't like our company, and that's a relatively small population.' " (Ahem. Nearly 70 million negative impressions is not a "small population.")
In their shoes ...
Imagine that you are working in the PR Department at Wal-Mart. (One wonders if they wear those blue vests there,
too.) You're trying to overcome coverage about your
company's connection to a $25 million community gift of a college sports arena which is now
under attack in the media because it was to be named for Sam Walton's granddaughter who cheated
her way through college and had to give back her degree.
Last month, your challenges also involved heavy press coverage of the Catholic
League telling everyone they may boycott your stores because a new employee tried to explain that "Happy
Holidays" is a politically correct way to honor all of the cultures who shop at Wal-Mart. And that documentary? Its purpose was to show Wal-Mart "mistreating its workers, relying on foreign
sweatshops for merchandise and driving out small, family-owned
Given that coverage to work with, how much of your day would be spent
in reactivity instead of proactivity? Would you
respond to every issue? Or would silence be a less
inflamatory strategy for your image in the press?
Your company has not stopped doing good in the community, nor has it been unsuccessful in
selling merchandise at great prices to consumers.
But what can you do? These reporters
aren't focusing on the good news.
better plan ...
Ask yourself, "What goals would help Wal-Mart as the new year rolls
in?" The goals you set need to be logical and
achievable, so don't tell us you would "get more positive
impressions." (Do the math. It would take a 900% increase in plain old
positive impressions just to offset the current level of negative news.) That's not realistic. What would
you think of advising Wal-Mart to have one of these less common goals?
- Reduce overall media impressions by at least 50%. (You want the media to stop making you the most
talked about company in the world if all they can do is accentuate the negative. Give someone else the column inches, please!) Have your PR measurement company measure impressions
and ratings over time.
- You might decide to use key
messages and informational press releases to reach a goal of at least a 1:1 positive to negative
impressions ratio in substantial media coverage measurements. Your PR measurement company should be able to produce a ratio for you weekly or monthly. They should also be able to tell you what percentage of your coverage actually contained your key message. (What are the 3 best things that every person who utters Wal-Mart
should know? "Always low prices" was
a good start. Surely there are two more.)
- Maybe your goal would be to conduct
quarterly proactive campaigns that dispel certain past negative issues. (e.g., Could you help keep small businesses in
business with lower pricing or auto service discounts and thereby dispell the rumor
that you are here to drive the little guy out?)
Your PR measurement company would measure ad value equivalency or a targeted increase
(10%? More?) in neutral/positive impressions during that campaign.
Do you have suggestions for a better goal? Email us at
We will publish any legitimate professional suggestions we receive at a later
Can't put your thumb on achievable goals for your own company? Consult with an independent measurement company whose experts can offer you suggestions or design a measurement just for your PR efforts.