Spinning Walmart: Astroturfing, Edelman, And Why Walmart's TVs Are Tuned To Fox News

A new article in the New Yorker examines Walmart’s complicated relationship with its PR company, Edelman, with whom readers of the Consumerist have become so well-aquainted. The reporter goes inside Walmart’s “home office” in Bentonville, AR, where he meets Walmart’s resident Edelman staff, notes that the TVs are all tuned to FOX News, and learns some interesting tidbits about the looms in which PR for Walmart is spun:

The Edelman team assigned to Wal-Mart, I learned, is divided into three groups: “promote,” “response,” and “pressure.” The Jobs and Opportunity Zones notion came from the promotions team. The response-team members–veterans of political campaigns–are supposed to quickly counter criticism in the press or on the Web. The pressure group works on opposition research, focussing on the unions and the press.

There is great mistrust of the press at Wal-Mart headquarters. The chief spokeswoman for the company, a former A. T. & T. executive named Mona Williams, keeps on a shelf a framed cover of a 2003 issue of Business Week featuring a story titled “Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?” The story asked tough questions about Wal-Mart’s influence on the American economy. “I keep that there to remind me never to trust reporters,” she said, without smiling

What delightful people.

The New Yorker article is great, with far too many interesting revelations to summarize here. We will say, however, that we love Edelman’s response to the “Walmarting Across America” scandal in which the sister of an Edelman exec was paid to travel the country in an RV and write “a blog” about the happy Walmart workers she encountered:

When I asked Richard Edelman, the company’s chairman, about this rather blatant example of Astroturfing, he said, of Working Families for Wal-Mart, “I do believe that it is a real group of real people, as far as I know.

—MEGHANN MARCO

Selling Wal-Mart [New Yorker]
(Photo: cmorran123)