Walmart Halloween: All Tricks, No Treats

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This October, Walmart reached out to the plus size community in the absolute most wrong way. They had a plus size section called “Fat Girl Costumes.” The section offered costumes that were also offered in Walmart’s Women’s Plus Size Adult section, suggesting that someone created this offensive section as some kind of cruel joke and forgot to change it (Merlan 2014). Others believe it could have been some third-party metadata issue that was automatically generating groupings since this category was related to “Plus Size” and “Adult Plus” (Griner 2014).

By 11:15am, costumes were removed from the “Fat Girl Costumes” section, however the title of the section still showed up on the website. By 1:30pm, the category finally disappeared and Walmart started to auto reply to angry customers on Twitter (Merlan 2014).

It was noted on AdWeek, that alongside the article was a “related link” to the category on walmart.com (Griner 2014). A woman named Krystyn Washburn was one of the first people to tweet at Walmart after she saw the category on October 21. (Prisco 2014). Walmart’s semi-apolopy was “Your comments and suggestions are important to us and help make Wal-Mart even better. Thank you,” which angered customers because it sounded the least sympathetic. A company spokesperson said to People Magazine’s website that “this never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable and we apologize,” while ensuring it would never happen again (Shandrow 2014). Buzzfeed reported that a reader pointed out that around 4:10pm, even though Walmart updated their webpage, an offensive banner ad appeared at the top of the page for “Women’s Plus Size Halloween Costumes” saying, “make it a monstrously big Halloween for less” (Zarrell and Maheshwari 2014).

halloween blog

Made on Pic Collage App

Walmart had not even apologized before large news sources began to publish the story on the Times, People, CNN, and more. Customers began to notice the insensitive category around 10:30am and then nothing was even done about it until 45 minutes later, and not even fully removed until 3 hours later (“Walmart in hot water over ‘fat girl’ Halloween costume section” 2014). Apparently the category reappeared on the site 6 days later also for a short period of time (Prisco 2014).

It’s not even the first time the store has has offensive products. Also available were racist American Indian parody outfits, gypsy costumes, “Fat Tinkerbell” costume for men, and a Marie Antoinette costume with a description with bizarre symbols as apostrophes and beheading jokes (Merlan 2014).

Walmart is a prime example of the statistic that 50% of communications professionals think that organizations are not adequately prepared to handle crisis situations. Crisis management is so important because “the reputation of a brand can easily be tarnished in mere moments because an active public now has the ability to take a stance, make a statement, and judge that brand based on how the company chooses to address (or not address) the crisis at hand” (Luttrell 2014). In order for Walmart to have successfully handled this Halloween costume crisis, they should have a crisis management team and website to go live when there is an emergency in which they can sincerely apology, take full responsibility, have a plan of how they are dealing with the situation, and be able to answer all questions the customers may have. Walmart should have posted an apology on all social media and their main website. They also should have responded quicker and taken the offensive category down right away. The company waited too long for that, and waited too long for a spokesperson to address the public. If Walmart wanted to provide good customer service, they would have responded to each and every complaint or response from the public and had been sympathetic, apologetic, and comforting, instead of sounding like an automatic machine.

Questions:

1. What suggestions would you have for Walmart in this situation?

2. Are there any other examples you have found the similar situation occurred, but handled better than this?

Works Cited

Griner, David. “Whoa, Walmart.com. Why Do You Have a Section Called ‘Fat Girl Costumes’? Not a Good Look for the Retailer.” AdWeek. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.adweek.com%2Fadfreak%2Fwhoa-walmartcom-why-do-you-have-section-called-fat-girl-costumes-161025>.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 9: Crisis Management on the Social Sphere.” Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Merlan, Anna. “Walmart’s Website Features a Section of ‘Fat Girl Costumes'” Jezebel. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://jezebel.com/walmarts-website-features-a-section-of-fat-girl-costum-1651125569&gt;.

Prisco, Joanna. “Are ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ on Walmart Site a Halloween Trick?” ABC News. ABC News Network, 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/fat-girl-costumes-walmart-site-halloween-trick/story?id=26485549&gt;.

Shandrow, Kim Lachance. “Wal-Mart Eats Humble Pie After Publishing ‘Fat Girl’ Halloween Costumes.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239084&gt;.

“Walmart in Hot Water over ‘fat Girl’ Halloween Costume Section.” RT USA. N.p., 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/usa/200239-warlmart-fat-girl-costume/&gt;.

Zarrell, Rachel, and Sapna Maheshwari. “Walmart Apologizes For “Fat Girl Costumes” Section on Website.” BuzzFeed. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/walmart-is-offering-a-selection-of-fat-girl-costumes-on-thei&gt;.

The Brain of the Company: Press Centers

Online media centers, press centers, or newsrooms are webpages on a company website that attracts  journalists because it holds all of the company’s media coverage. It is the job of a PR specialist to make a journalist’s job easier by making it easier, more efficient, easier to share, and quicker to find key information to create a story (Luttrell 185). New releases on social media receive three times the coverage that traditional news releases receive (Luttrell 197). Content is king – don’t use flashy images. Include content such as executive bios, social media generated press releases, white papers, essential photographs, and company logos. Make sure the online media center can be found using web searches and has the ability to subscribe and receive emails (RSS feeds). Also make sure to feature the online media center on the company homepage with easy URL links (Luttrell 186). Press releases must be shareable (Luttrell 197).

Components:

1. Press Releases –

  • Contact Info – Only list where you intend to respond (email, office/mobile phone numbers, social media platforms) *always list on top
  • Headline –Grab attention! Should be 60 to 120 characters and be bold, capitalizing every word except prepositions and words 3 letters or less.
  • Intro Paragraph – Inverted pyramid of who, what, when, why, and where, 1 to 4 sentences, and title case
  • Supporting Paragraph/Details – tells the story; should avoid advertising or marketing speech, 300 to 800 words, and title case
  • Anchor Text Links – “keyword-rich phrases linked to a relevant page on the Internet.” Ex: facts and stats, multimedia (mobile friendly audio, video, infographics, social bookmarking, sharing tools, social commenting, and creative commons license)

2. Company background/statements – History of the company including milestones, how it started, mission, visions, and goals.

3. Leadership team – Short biographies of company owners, founders, and top leadership team: includes picture of individual, names, and professional title.

4. Multimedia – Photographs of events, products, logos, personnel, videos, reports, presentations, b-roll, and infographics.

5. Products – List products or services with a brief description and significance.

6. FAQs/fact sheets – List of FAQs from media representatives.

7. Speakers or interview topics – Topics that company spokespeople can speak about that incorporates members from different departments and areas of expertise (Luttrell 187-196).

Organizing your online media center –

blog post

(prinyourpajamas.com 2011)

Use tools such as Google Trends, Bing’s Xrank, and Trellian’s keyworddiscovery.com to determine keywords to optimize SEO (prnewswire.com).

*Remember, a good online media center can rescue a good story, but a bad online media center can kill a story!

*Newsrooms are always GREAT for a PR crisis! You can add updates to the news site in real time to keep your audience informed (prnewswire.com).

An example of an online media center is the following for Google:

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.48.03 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.48.28 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.48.17 PM

How would you change this online media center?

I think that the links are all great and easy to find things. There are some great photographs and links to their webcasts. What I would change is the home page. I would make the tabs at the bottom (company, news, careers, investor relations, and contact us) more visible and more accessible at the top of the page in tabs or on the left hand side in tabs, so people do not have to scroll all the way to the bottom. The bottom is not where everyone would check.

Questions:

1. What might online media centers be good for in a company?

2. How would you use the online media centers during a PR crisis?

3. What would be the most important thing a journalist would look for on a company’s online media center?

Works Cited

Elena. “How to Create a Good Online Media Center.” PR In Your Pajamas. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://prinyourpajamas.com/online-media-center/&gt;.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 11: Online Media Centers in a Connected World.” Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

“Online Newsroom Best Practices.” PR Newswire: Press Release Distribution, Targeting, Monitoring and Marketing. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.prnewswire.com/knowledge-center/Online-Newsroom-Best-Practices.html&gt;.

Define Your Content 101: Social Media Marketing Tips

My work office as an advertiser/marketer for my internship, summer 2014!

My work office as an advertiser/marketer for my internship, summer 2014!

Become an expertise!

Content is everywhere…especially social media. It is no wonder that corporations are using social media to create their own content. They do this in order to keep its audience’s attention. These strategies are key because “they provide channels that connect audiences with similar interests, thus enabling dialogue where meaningful relationships can be forged” (Luttrell 83). Well, what does this content do exactly?

1. It builds long-lasting relationships

2. It increases a company’s social influences

3.  It improves search engine optimization

This can be done through blogs, podcasting, Internet radio, and Wikis.

According to Adriana Lopez at Forbes, businesses are missing out on blogging, the most valuable social media platform, because it has previously been known for its personal use with online diaries. Only 16% of consumers actually trust corporate blogs (Luttrell 85). One company in particular has been the leader in corporate blogging. Bond Public Relations & Brand Strategy is in New Orleans and have only recently added social media as a service, which has acquired them new clientele and business inquiries. The social media blogger, Suzette Lake, offers the following tips.

1. Know the benefits of social media

  • Free advertising if a post goes viral
  • Virtual sample of services offered
  • Create familiarity with brand

2. Commit to up keeping of blog

  • Remember it is time consuming and expensive. Hire a social media manager to maintain the blog

3. Schedule posts

  • Posts must be consistent and posted often to engage readers and drive in new visitors

4. Promote your blog!

  • Personal accounts and company Facebook and Twitter accounts will do

5. Update posts!

  • Three words: relevant, interesting, fun (Lopez 2014)

Always know your platform (every platform you need to know as a marketer)!

1. Facebook

  • Audience – everyone
  • Share – all types of content, ads, events
  • Post Frequency – 1-2 daily

2. Twitter

  • Audience – everyone
  • Share – interact with brands and customers
  • Post Frequency – many times a day

3. Instagram

  • Audience – brands (luxury, food, fashion, etc)
  • Share – visual content, videos
  • Post Frequency – once a day

4. LinkedIn

  • Audience – businesses
  • Share – company research, job listings
  • Post Frequency – 2-4/week

5. Google+

  • Audience – brands, businesses, bloggers
  • Share – use hashtags
  • Post Frequency – 1-2/day

6. Youtube

  • Audience – brands, advertisers, anyone with video content
  • Share – < 1 minute video
  • Post Frequency – 1-2/week

7. Pinterest

  • Audience – DIY, fashion, food, design, travel, females
  • Share – visual content
  • Post Frequency – many times a day

8. Foursquare

  • Audience – businesses, reviewers, bloggers,
  • Share – location-cased search/reviews
  • Post Frequency – before business opens, when info changes, weekly

If the purpose of blogging is to start a conversation and have two-way interaction between customers and companies, why don’t more companies use them? You can add pictures, videos, links, surveys and more. I think that how Starbucks made their blog into a place where people can share ideas and come up with new drinks for the menu is a good way to get people talking and to show that the company takes an interest in what its customers actually have to say. Blogs are an easy way to self promote and increase customer base if a company just keeps up with posting and makes sure it is engaged with the customer. Remember: even negative posts are helpful! Show off your customer service skills! (Luttrell 86).

I used to maintain a blog on Tumblr, but it never really had any focus. I would just reblog things that I liked or quotes/pictures that appealed to me. I really never gained any followers because it was difficult to keep up with posting often. I also found this to be an issue when I created an Instagram account for my dog over the summer. My friend at work and I, and then later, my boyfriend, had a contest as to who could get the most followers. To first create a fanbase, I liked other dog accounts and liked their pictures. Most would follow me back. I started posting about 3 to 4 pictures a day, just to establish myself and get likes. I noticed not many people would follow me if I looked like a new account with just a few pictures. The more I established myself, the more trustworthy I guess I seemed, so the more users followed me on their own without me having to follow their account. I now have over 850 followers, and every day I gain new followers even if I do not post. I have gotten pretty bad with updating it now that the school year started and got busier. I think to enhance the account and maintain followers, I need to not only post daily again, but also up my game with not just pictures, but videos too. Hashtags and creative captions I found are necessities if you want to engage followers and start a conversation. I’ll even promote here on this blog, since blogging is for that exact purpose!! Follow golden_thechester and aussie_nero_ for adorable pictures of golden retrievers and mini Australian shepherds!!

My personal dog account "blog" for my dog, Chester.

My personal dog account “blog” for my dog, Chester.

My boyfriend's personal dog "blog" account

My boyfriend’s personal dog “blog” account

As for Internet radio, Wikis, and podcasts, I think that these are great alternatives to blogging, but that blogging is still better with accomplishing engagement and traffic. Internet radio is free, which is a plus! However, I think customers would want a faster way of obtaining information than calling in to these talk shows and getting advice or questions answered. That brings me to Wikis, which are awesome to search for and find out information about a company, brand, product, etc rather quickly. I find myself looking at Wikis all of the time and the great thing about this is…it’s uncensored so you will find real customer reviews and experiences, which are more helpful to the consumer when researching products to buy. I believe that podcasts are not quite as popular because I think people tend to like visuals with audio more because it is more in capturing and holds attention better. I was shocked to read the statistics that 1 in 6 Americans listen to podcasts regularly. Podcasts take the place of radio ads, but I still think that it is better to relay a brand or product message using a visual with audio, so this might not be the best route to take (Luttrell 91-95).

Questions:

1. Why do you think so many consumers do not really trust corporate blogs?

2. As a consumer, how would you most often like to get information: Wikis, podcasts, or Internet radio?

3. Visuals or audio, or both? Why?

Chitwood, Luke. “The Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business.”TNW Network All Stories RSS. The Next Web Inc, 5 Mar. 2014. Web.Lopez, Adriana. “Businesses Are Missing Out On One Valuable Social Media Platform.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 July 2014. Web.

Lopez, Adriana. “Businesses Are Missing Out On One Valuable Social Media Platform.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 July 2014. Web.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 5: Sharing Expertise.” Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Turner, Jaimie. “Top 52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Know.” AskJamieTurner RSS. DISQUS, 9 Apr. 2010. Web.