Category Archives: Andrew Young

Wal-Mart, Young, Edelman and whether to join in the conversation

Interesting comments from James Bruni via the NowPublic blogsite about the Wal-Mart and Andrew Young problems. I find Mr. Bruni’s troublesome. He seems to see in the Andrew Young problem an argument for PR firms and/or communicators for organizations to not engage in the blogosphere.  He quotes Richard Edelman of Edelman PR:
“If there’s a mistake about your company, about your product, send them an e-mail, raise your hand. They will correct it. That’s what our studies show very clearly. Either by striking through and writing ‘here’s the fact.’ Or, by correcting. One or the other. Very few of them will leave an inaccurate post.”

But then Bruni suggests that this advice was undermined by the Andrew Young problem and that now Edelman and their “army of young account executives” was busy backtracking to try to recover from Ambassador Young’s unfortunate comments.

I’m sorry, I don’t see the connection. Edelman cannot be blamed for what Young said, even if they recommended hiring him. Based on his history, the comments are very surprising and could not have been predicted, I believe. Secondly, why would the problem with Young counter the message about engaging in the online conversation? If anything, it is more of a reason to participate. There’s a problem, the blog world is talking about it, and he things now is the time that Wal-Mart should disengage? I don’t think so,

Bruni makes the comment that the blogosphere cannot be controlled any more than the Mainstream Media could be controlled. That is pretty obvious and I don’t think Mr Edelman would disagree either. But because it cannot be controlled does not mean it is not important nor does it mean that companies should not engage.

I wonder if Mr Bruni tipped his hand about why he is thinking this way when he suggests that PR people need to refocus on traditional media while “keeping an eye on the blogosphere.” Wow, here’s where the problem really is, in my mind. Traditional PR people are focused almost exclusively on the old media. Hey, it is still very very important. But the world is changing very rapidly in public communication. To make a call for refocusing on something that almost everyone in the business is primarily focused on strikes me as pretty strange.

My take: Edelman is right, Bruni is wrong. Your take?

Wal-Mart: Andrew Young turns a great strategy into bad news

Wal-Mart’s hiring of Andrew Young was a brilliant strategy. The former Mayor of Atlanta and US Ambassador to the United Nations had the pedigree, credibility and presence to make a difference in Wal-Mart’s badly needed efforts to boost its public image. The fact that attack sites like http://blog.wakeupwalmart.com/ had a real problem with Andrew Young demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach. Here’s the anti-Wal-Mart attack blog’s comments about Young.

The problem is, Andrew Young stepped in it big time–and in a way that plays to whatever perceptions opponents and fencesitters might have of Wal-Mart. His comments were racist and sounded like they would come from an Archie Bunker type rather than from such a distinguished African-American leader. Even through the effort to put them in context, it is hard to avoid the inherent racist overtones of the statements. Young was right to resign. Wal-Mart was right to distance themselves from him. And there has to be a lot of headscratching going on in Bentonville right now, saying, “Now what?” Now what indeed.