Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Company Blog Checkup: Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is blogging? They believe they are, with a 'blog' they are calling Life At Wal-Mart, their 'associate blog'. Wal-Mart has gotten themselves into hot water in the past (along with PR firm Edelman) for their deceptive 'Wal-Marting Across America' blog, so a well-run communication effort here would be muchly appreciated.

Unfortunately, that's the last thing we get from Life At Wal-Mart. First, let's look at the Apparently, Wal-Mart takes posts from employees from the corporate to store level as their source material. That's a good move. But the posts are such obvious attempts at PR-spin that it's laughable. Here's a few of the post titles:

"For the last six years my family and myself have had the privilege of working for Wal-Mart"

"There is not another company I would rather work for than MY Wal-Mart!"

"Thank you so much Wal-Mart for helping me in obtaining an education and developing personal skills that are priceless."

"I still can not believe everything that the company has allowed me to achieve"

The 'content' consists of an embarrassing stream of such posts, all praising anything and everything that is Wal-Mart. The posts themselves cover the topics you would like to see the company address; the work environment, customer service, and Wal-Mart's community service. But the content is so obviously pro-Wal-Mart that it's impossible to view it as objective, or the writers as credible. Also, the posting is very erratic, with only a few posts per month, and the author of every post is identified as 'Wal-Mart Facts'. Obviously, every post author should have their name at the bottom of their post(s).

So with a setup like this, you're probably interested in seeing how the writers handle what would likely be an avalanche of comments for each post, right? Well how Wal-Mart handles comments, is to block them. That's right, the 'blog' doesn't allow comments. A bad 'blogging' effort just took a massive turn for the worst. Just for future reference, if your company is considering launching a blog, and you do NOT want to allow comments, then don't blog. Trust me on this one.

Finally, let's turn to the sidebar, which is probably the 'high' point of the 'blog'. The 'blog' actually does a nice job of organizing the content by categories which are easily accessible on the sidebar (you can tell I'm trying to find something good to mention here, can'tcha?). The 'blog' also does a (shocking) good job of giving you company info, including store locations, employment opportunities, etc. No non-Wal-Mart links on the sidebar, which should shock no one at this point. And there is no sidebar area identifying who writes for the 'blog'. There should be a section for the authors, with a clear bio and picture of each.

Overall, this is not a blog, even if Wal-Mart wants to position it as such. This is a poorly-crafted PR tool to attempt to position Wal-Mart in the best light possible. In the end, it does the exact opposite. By leaving such incredibly pro-Wal-Mart posts, and blocking comments, the site is giving the impression that the company has something to hide, and is fearful of letting their customers have a voice.

And their concern is somewhat understandable, as Wal-Mart has as many detractors as any company in the world. But 'efforts' such as this only make that problem worse, not better. Wal-Mart either needs to completely open this site and make it a real blog, or scrap it. I doubt they will do either.

I came very close to not profiling this 'blog', because with every entry, I like to point out the good, with the bad. Almost every company blog hits high and low points, and other companies can learn from both. But Life At Wal-Mart is just a disaster. I can see no area where the blog does even an above average job.

Then again, that might be where Life At Wal-Mart can help the rest of us, as being the perfect example of what NOT to do if you launch a company blog.

If anyone from Wal-Mart wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. So far every company profiled in the Company Blog Checkup series has had at least one representative leave feedback, and I openly encourage Wal-Mart to do so as well.

And today will be a double-dip for the Company Blog Checkup, as I'll be profiling another company later, so be sure to check back!

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Sean Woodruff said...

Looks like that is an employee testimonial page and not a blog. What else would you expect from a company that defines value as low price?

 Ryan Karpeles said...

Reading their blog honestly made me want to gag. It was like the equivalent of a clown telling me in a corny voice to "turn my frown upside down."

Does every post have to be about how fantastic Wal-Mart is? Does anyone at this company believe in authenticity?

I don't mean to rip the blog TOO hard, but let's be honest--it's a joke. They need to start over. Post about the good. Post about the bad. Allow comments. Don't sound so friggin' cheesy. The list goes on and on...

I really hope someone at Wal-Mart comes to you for help, Mack. Turning that site around would be the ultimate fixer-upper for a blog doctor like yourself :)

Mack Collier said...

Check out this post where Richard Edelman claims that 'blog' was getting 600,000 page views a month, back in March.