Hey Wal-Mart: You really need to hire me as your PR trainer!
Here’s a bad idea: Send your PR representative to a closed union press conference at which you know your company is going to be criticized, and tell her to make up a fake name and pretend to be a reporter. I don’t think I have to explain the ethical problems with this.
But let’s say you don’t care about ethics. How about this, then? Have the same PR rep show up again a week later, when many of the same people are present, this time using her real name and identifying herself as your PR rep.
Wal-Mart does not appear to learn from its mistakes. And as Time documented in reporting this debacle, the attempt by both Wal-Mart and its agency to blame the incident on a junior employee fall a little flat. As with 5W and Fleischman-Hilliard, this tactic of blaming the rogue employee for an ethical faux pax is ridiculous. There is clearly a pattern here, and it strains credulity to suggest that either Wal-Mart management or agency management didn’t sign off on it.
Clearly, Wal-Mart’s team could use some PR ethics training, but then it’s also the responsibility of their agency not to (a) suggest unethical tactics; or( b) use them in the event the idea comes from the client. It’s also an agency’s responsibility not to be monumentally stupid, but maybe there’s no way to train away stupidity.
So listen, Wal-Mart, if you hire me, I’m going to help you out and refuse to do things that are clearly unethical, let alone easily discovered. If you want to know what unions are thinking, I can show you honest and straightforward ways of doing that. No one will need to use a fake name or fake credentials.
Oh, and you won’t make the same mistake twice, because part of a good agency’s job is to make sure you learn from things that have already blown up in your face.
Get ahold of me . I’m a busy woman, but I can fit you in.