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How the biggest company in America–Walmart–breaks news in 2015

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard the big news out of Bentonville last week: Walmart is set to increase its minimum wage for associates.

Big news, right? HUGE news is more like it. So, given the fact that I am a PR counselor by trade, and Walmart has been a client of mine in the past, I was more than a little interested to see how they broke the news.

What I discovered was really pretty interesting–and may change the way you think about breaking news yourself with your clients and organizations.

I’m not the first to write about this–Patrick Coffee at PR Newser noticed last week, too.

And, after digging in a bit more, I thought there were some interesting lessons to learn from the way in which Walmart broke this news.

Most notably, the integrated nature of the way Walmart broke the news. They used a variety of tactics from owned to earned to paid media that no doubt involved many different groups and departments from within the Bentonville company.

Let’s take a closer look.

First, they shared a news release with specific journalists (as noted, by Coffee, in the PR Newser article).

WMT Twitter 4

So, no big surprise here. On point with what most companies would do, no question. At least, most larger companies.

Next, they established an online “home base” for the news–one that was interactive, and open to two-way conversations with employees, customers and stakeholders: The Walmart blog (see below).

WMT Blog 1

Here’s what’s interesting about this move–Walmart didn’t post the news release in its newsroom. The blog post WAS the news release–at least in the online world.

Why is that smart? Because now the “release” (post) becomes portable to use in different social media channels. And, it becomes more interactive. Note the Walmart folks featured the video of Doug McMillon (we’ll get to that in a moment) right at the top of the post. We know people (and media) love video–let’s make sure everyone sees it right at the top (and has the ability to embed it in their stories and posts across the web).

They also plugged in a large infographic (we’ll also talk about that in a moment as well)–another nice visual piece that helps explain the decision from a few different angles. And finally, they opened up the comments on the post–something a garden-variety news release wouldn’t have. And, as you can see, they were actively responding to folks (and the comments weren’t all positive, either, as you might expect).

WMT blog comments 2

And finally, using a blog for this news made sense because I think it “humanized” Walmart and the news a bit more. After all, this was a very people-focused topic, right? Walmart wanted this news to come off in a warm, more welcoming way (enter Doug McMillon video). I think using a blog for the home base accomplished that more than a tried-and-true news release would have (at least publicly).

Walmart then went on to share this news across its social channels, including Facebook:


Note the context and text they used in the post–different from what they used across other social channels. So, here’s one lesson: Use different language, depending on the media (probably well-known by now, but worth mentioning).

They also shared on Twitter, specifically from their flagship @walmart and @walmartnewsroom accounts:

WMT Twitter 3

Couple things to note here. Again note the language–different from what they used on Facebook. Shorter, more “retweetable.” But also notice they pinned the tweet to the top of their timeline. Simple, but smart. Also–notice how Walmart strategically retweeted some of the bigger Twitter players who shared the news throughout the day. Not everyone–just the heavy hitters. Again, simple but smart.

WMT Twitter 2

Walmart also did a very smart thing with Twitter–something I’ve been talking about for the last couple years. They took the larger piece of content (the infographic–full form on the blog post) and broke it down into smaller “chunks” they then used in individual tweets. Like this one:

WMT Infographic 2

For context, here’s what the full infographic looked like:

WMT Big Infogrphic

Walmart went on to share three more tweets–all using different “chunks” of the same infographic. Great job extending the lifecycle of that one piece of visual content on the blog!

And, then I noticed this tweet in my feed yesterday. It seems that Walmart used promoted tweets to make sure the news showed up in people’s timelines. Interesting. Now this is part of the integrated approach to how Walmart broke the news. It wasn’t all about “earned media”–Walmart used the owned/earned/paid triangle to distribute and promote the news.


But, they didn’t stop there. A simple Google search and this showed up.

WMT paid search

Interesting, right? Here’s Walmart using paid search dollars to make sure the news pops up at the top of the page for key search terms. The link takes you back to the Walmart blog post with the announcement details, video and infographic. So again, we’re back to the integrated approach of using paid/earned/owned. I also think about what this means for the Walmart PR team–guessing they aren’t in charge of SEO and search at Walmart. That means, they had to work hand-in-hand with the marketing team on this. Sounds simple, but if you’ve worked for or with a big company, you know these types of things don’t always just happen as seamlessly as you think they should. And, certain departments (even though they may be separated by just a few feet or hallways, don’t always communicate), don’t always communicate well.

Walmart even teased the Doug McMillon video on Instagram.

WMT Instagram

Keep in mind, Walmart has more than 86,000 followers on Instagram, so while this is most likely a “secondary” channel for them, it’s still substantial. And, the post did receive more than the average number of comments–in fact, the only post recently that drummed up more engagement was the post alerting customers that Walmart was now selling Oreo Red Velvet cookies!

All in all, a very interesting approach to breaking news by Walmart here. Sure, not every organization has access to the resources the biggest company in America does. But, I would argue many of these tactics and approaches could easily be executed by virtually any company. Walmart probably invested more in the paid piece of the execution, but if you’re a small or mid-sized business, you wouldn’t have to spend a ton on Google search ads or Twitter promoted tweets to achieve a similar effect.

Something to chew on as the way in which we share and break news as an industry continues to evolve.

4 unwritten commandments of the corporate communicator

Today’s corporate communicator has a legion of responsibilities. Everything from executive communications to media relations to employee communications falls under its umbrella.

Corporate communicators must be good writers. They must be able to hold and lead a meeting. They must have good interpersonal skills. And, they must be able to work well alone–and in a team environment.

We know about all of this because it is well documented. We talk about it a lot in professional organizations like IABC and PRSA. We read about it on blogs and industry publications.

Candy Dish

But, we talk very little about those unwritten laws that govern our profession. Those “commandments”, if you will, that truly enable us to do our work–and do it well.

What am I talking about? I’ve come up with four unwritten “commandments” I believe play a key role for every corporate communicator.

1–Thou shall always keep executive admins happy.

One of a corporate communicator’s most important partners is the chief executive. And the CFO. And SVPs. Also known as “executive row” in many places of employment. These are your go-to spokespeople for the organization, and they are also an important source of information. So, it’s absolutely key you have unfettered (or relatively unfettered) access to these people as much as you can. Enter the administrative assistant. Developing and maintaining open and solid relationships with these people is ESSENTIAL to doing your job well. Why? Because they control the executive’s calendar. Piss them off, and you can forget getting 10 minutes today. Develop a good working relationship with them and they can become one of your most important allies in the organization. When I was working on the corporate side, these were always the first people I sought out. I made time to talk to them about personal matters. I asked them questions about their kids. I got them coffee on occasion. I looked for ways to make their lives easier. And, invariably, it always paid off.

2–Thou shall always keep a full candy dish at your desk.

Wait, what? That’s right, always be the guy/gal with the candy dish at your desk. Why would you do that? Because the candy dish is the new water cooler. Who really has water coolers anymore? That’s a dated concept. A candy dish on the other hand–that’s where you get the gossip of the organization. And, as a corporate communicator, believe me, you want to hear that gossip. You want to hear the chatter going on among employees and managers below the surface, so you know what the REAL issues are around the company. Not just the issues leadership sees. That candy dish is your ticket to those conversations. Some people might scoff at this commandment, but I truly believe in it. Another benefit: It opens up the lines of communication between you and others within the company. After all, who doesn’t love a Twix at 2 pm in the afternoon? That Twix will inevitably turn into a short 5-minute conversation about what’s going on with that employee. And again, that’s the stuff you want to hear about before it starts bubbling up.

3–Thou shall never eat alone–or at your desk.

Somewhere along the line, eating alone at your desk became a badge of honor for PR folks. And, I’m not sure why. As a corporate communicator you NEVER want to eat alone. That lunch hour is just as critical as the rest of your day.  You should spend it grabbing lunch with your boss. Or, a colleague. Or an employee. Nurturing relationships. Learning about what’s going on in a different department. Talking to a colleague in product design to mine for stories for the intranet in the next month. Yep–it’s a working lunch, but it should never be spent alone. And, every once in a while, I suggest grabbing lunch with a colleague or friend OUTSIDE the office. This networking will be invaluable to your development–whether it’s lunch with a former colleague, a friend in another industry, or just someone you’ve always wanted to meet. To be clear, I’m not really saying you have to eat lunch with someone else EVERY day. But start by shooting for a couple days a week and move on from there. After all, think about the executives you support. Do you ever see them eating alone? Probably not. Why? Because they know the value of those relationships across the business. And you should, too.

4–Thou shall take at least 2 trips per year.

I know, you’re scratching your head again. What could I possibly be talking about here? Every corporate communicator should seek to get out of the office at least twice per year. Here’s my thinking. If you work for an org with offices in different locations, get out to one of those locations at least once a year. It pays to get out among employees and see the environment in which you’re communicating with employees. It pays to see the front lines. It just pays to see what it’s like in different offices. All of that will help you formulate strategies and tactics in your planning. Don’t have offices around the country? What about an industry conference? Don’t you want to get smarter about your work? Make the case to management that you need to attend at least one conference per year. And, make sure you come back with ideas and lessons you can share with your team. Lastly, take a freaking vacation! I shouldn’t even really have to say this, but vacation time is essential to healthy employees. Everyone needs a break. Yet, I remember from my time in corporate America, that far too many people were rolling vacation days over each year. Make sure you make time for yourself. Believe me, no one is too important to miss work for a week. No one.

photo credit: Candy Dish via photopin (license)

Talking Points Podcast: Can Twitter Really Drive Traffic for Brands?

In this week’s episode, Kevin and I discuss the Atlantic article that made the rounds this past week about Twitter’s inability to drive traffic (big surprised, right?). We also tackle a really interesting PBS story about the evolving nature of media, and Justine Sacco, who was back in the news this past week.


“The Unbearable Lightness of Tweeting”


“Bark to Action: Buick Goes to the Dogs—Your Dogs—With Customized Spots”


“There’s No Bullshit Like Brand Bullshit”


“How Lies Spread Faster Than Truth: A Study of Viral Content”


“How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life”


“A Social-Media Mistake Is No Reason to Be Fired”


The changing face of social media news distribution

Sure, we all know Facebook and Twitter have become absolutely critical to many media and publishers when it comes to sharing and distributing news stories.

But, for most media outlets, that has meant to things:

* Merely sharing stories on those two networks–sometimes with paid advertising to support the stories (see: Any of your local media).

* Reaching a good percentage of that Boomer and Gen X audience, but not reaching the Millennials and Gen Z audience as much (key to the future of news media business, obviously).

However, there are a small number of media and publishers that have been experimenting with newer and more “out of the box” ideas when it comes to sharing the news via social media.

And, I’m not just talking about media like Buzzfeed. I’m talking about big, international media like CNN and ABC News.

Let’s take a peek at how some media are using different, newer social networks to reach that younger audience via social media distribution:

CNN/ESPN – Snapchat Discover


I wrote about this last week, but Snapchat’s new Discover tool may be one of the best things about Snapchat (for me, at least). A number of publishers have a presence within Discover including CNN, ESPN, and Vice. What’s beautiful about Discover is it’s easy to access on Snapchat (if you’re a power user, this is a big perk), and it gives you a quick glimpse at the news in different areas (world vs. sports vs. fashion) in about 2 minutes or less. My personal fave: The loops of sports highlights on ESPN (including the buzzer-beater by West Virginia over my Kansas Jayhawks earlier this week–damn you WVU!). Not too many other social apps have figured out the publishing angle yet. But, I believe Snapchat has. And kudos to the publishers on the forefront of the Discover tool.

Now This News – Instagram

Now This IG

Now This News was one of the first media outlets I noticed that was really delivering the news in different ways. In this case, I noticed them using Instagram (and Instagram video, primarily) to deliver the news on a platform that has become well-known for cat, dog and food pics. Interesting, right? But, Now This News continues to see results from its approach. 136,000 fans on Instagram. And each post routinely solicits 1,000-plus likes and slews of viewer comments. Just one way Now This News is reaching that younger demo (see Snapchat and Vine for other examples).

ABC News – Facebook video

ABC News FBGo check out all the national media outlet Facebook feeds sometime. All they do is share links to stories. A few will feature a clip of a newscast from time to time. But, other than that, you won’t find much. That is, until you stumble upon ABC World News Tonight with David Muir. They started implementing a “The One Thing” video once a day that encapsulates the biggest stories of the day in two minutes or less. Rebecca Jarvis or David Muir usually anchor. It’s an interesting way to present the news (actually very Snapchat Discover-esque)–and very much on par with what some of the other outlets are doing with short-form video and chat tools to reach the younger (and/or short attention-audience).

Now This News – Vine

With 229,000 followers, NTN is a serious player (news-wise, at least) on Vine. Most Vines get between 30,000-90,000 loops with a variety of likes and revines. And, not surprisingly, they’re not just reporting on “hard news.” Sure, they include the requisite mix of politics and national/international news stories, but they also mix in a bunch of stories like this one that includes a Mattel/Google partnership. Heads up PR folks–is the new b-roll short-form video for Vine and Instagram?

I’m sure we’ll see more innovation in this area in the years ahead as the news media and publishing worlds continue to evolve. But for now, pretty interesting to note the strategies above some of these publishers are taking to reach younger generations–wouldn’t you agree?

Why don’t we teach our kids how to use the internet to create, invent and do good?

I read a post by Jay Baer recently about teaching social media to kids in high school. The post alluded to teaching cyber security to kids as a way to protect themselves and their personal reputations and data.

But, I couldn’t help but think. Sure, we want to teach our kids about the RISKS of the internet. I’m with you–I want the same for my kids (and I’m starting to talk to them about this kind of thing now, and they’re in grade school).

But, what about all the wonderful potential the internet and social media holds? Don’t we want to teach our kids about that, too?

Internet Kids

Isn’t that even MORE important than teaching them about the risks?

Couldn’t any class cover BOTH?

I say yes–and would LOVE to see such a class taught to our kids. And, I’d take it a step further–I think it needs to be taught at all levels. It’s that important in today’s society.

And yeah, any class would involve lessons around online privacy and cyber security, as Baer points out.

And, I would also add in an element of how others are using social media for cyber-bullying and how to manage that. You don’t think THAT would get support from Mom-and Dad-paying taxpayers across the country?

Like I said, I think the other half of this coin is teaching kids how to use the internet for good.

I mean, these kids are learning how to use the web at a very early age now (for my kids, that was about age 3). But, are they really LEARNING how to use the web? Or, are they merely adapting to it and figuring it out on the fly?

Now, adapting isn’t all bad, but there’s some legit weight to organizing a class and cirriculum taught by an actual teacher about how to actually use the internet to learn, invent and make the world a better place.

It actually boggles my mind why we’re NOT teaching this in some shape or form right now.

I know some schools have adopted iPads in the classroom. Good for them. Using technology in the classroom is a great thing.

But, that’s significantly different from teaching kids how to USE the internet. BIG difference.

For example, why couldn’t we teach out kids:

* How to effectively search for information on the web (and no, just typing something into Google does NOT qualify–anyone can do that)

* How to use social networks to find and connect with the right communities–folks who can help you learn about a particular topic, develop a new product, or make the world a better place to live (withe the context of being careful WHO you meet and talk with on the internet).

* Maybe most importantly, why aren’t we teaching our kids how to CREATE on the web? I mean, there’s a whole new legion of folks who are CREATORS on the net today. Those people are thriving–really thriving. And, to a large extent, they’re self-made. Why isn’t the education system embracing this as a form of artistic and personal expression? Isn’t that a big part of what education is supposed to do?

When I asked my son about what they teach him in the computer lab, he mentioned three things.

* They teach them how to illustrate poems (OK, illustrating poems, I’m on board; it’s creative expression at least; but this should be one of many forms of creative expression they discuss)

* They teach them how to change your desktop (OK, again, that’s useful but very how-to-run-a-computer 101; I would argue there are many more useful how-to-run-a-computer-type tips and lessons we could teach our kids before we start with “how to change your desktop”)

* They teach them how to type (I do like this; however, keep in mind, most of the kids I see typing these days STILL use the hunt-and-peck method; I still contend the class I took in typing as a high schooler was one of the best and most useful classes I EVER took!)

Now, at a fourth grade level, you probably don’t need to be getting into cyber security issues and online bullying (I think that comes in middle school). But, I do think you could cover a few of the areas I mentioned above.

Namely, how to search the internet for information. Maybe some discussion around what social media is and what it works (believe me, at fourth grade, they’re already hearing about it, and in some cases, using it).

What do you think? Shouldn’t we be teaching our kids the power of the internet instead of constantly trying to protect them from it?

photo credit: IMG76 via photopin (license)