It takes nothing away from the value of Walmart's announcement on providing healthier food on its shelves that it was made in the presence of First Lady Michelle Obama, pretty obviously with encouragement, if not prodding, from the White House. Yet if that takes nothing away from the announcement's value, it does besmirch its standing as a public relations move. Good PR shouldn't require White House prompting. If Walmart can announce such changes now, it could have earlier—on its own. That would have been great PR.
Public relations suffers in public esteem because people regularly view PR announcements as ploys. What really prompted this? is the oft-voiced, or thought, question. In the wake of Walmart's pledge to work with suppliers to have healthier, lower sodium and sugar foods on its shelves in the next few years, we'd urge corporations everywhere to consider what's best for their publics, design programs to advance those interests, and announce them promptly, on their own. That would be the sort of boost that PR as a calling could really use.
(For an in-depth analysis of Walmart's announcement, see this post by Atlantic food writer Corby Kummer.)
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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