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;.

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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 –

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(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;.

Facebook Is Dead?

Goodbye my Facebook page?

Goodbye my Facebook page?

One word: Ello.

:The topic currently on social media enthusiasts minds’. Is this going to be the new Facebook? It could be.

Ello is a new social media site that is ad-free and does not sell users’ data to third parties like Facebook does. As of now, the site is invite-only and users must request an invite first. If you go to the website home page, it just tells you about the site and their manifesto. What is interesting is that you can click a button to either agree or disagree with their terms and if you disagree with their mission statement, they redirect you to Facebook’s privacy page (ello.co).

Where did this new social media platform come from?

Technically the site had been around for about a year, but only had about 100 friend users. It went semi-public on August 7, 2014 in which it was invite only, and now it is adding 50,000 new people an hour.

Ello looks like a very basic Facebook and apparently you cannot “like” posts and to even find the button to post is very difficult (Strachan 2014).

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Ello does still collect some data like the basic anonymous data, but made IP addresses anonymous, making even Google very difficult to even track a user. Ello collects data such as language, location, referring web site, and time spent visiting their site. They also provide an opt out feature so users do not even have to share anonymous information. One can do this by going to the Ello settings page and turning Google Analytics off or by having Do Not Track (DNT) in the browser, wit h the exception of Chrome web browser, Android smartphones, or used services like Google search or YouTube because data might be sent back to Google that Ello does not know about (ello.co).

If the site is ad free, how do they make money? They say the company is planning to offer special features that a user can pay a small amount of money in order to use the feature on their profile (DeMurs 2014).

Ello creators claim they are not trying to replace Facebook because Facebook is seen as an advertising platform, whereas Ello is seen as a social network. Critics do not think that Ello will replace other social network sites, but think it will be an addition (Falls 2014).

People are unhappy with Facebook because their new real name rule has outed users of the LGBTQ community (Vaughn-Nichols 2014) and Facebook users being forced to use the Facebook messenger app has questioned security since people were concerned with the camera going off while using it or not using the app and telephone numbers being displayed. There was also the question of the app being packed with spyware (Depra 2014).

Ello

Ello

In my opinion, I do not know how Ello is going to survive off of just special features and no advertising because how many people are actually going to want to pay for these features when they could just use another social media platform? The only people that would be real Ello users are those that are super concerned with privacy issues and data sharing among third parties. However, most social media users are not even that aware of this issue because many do not even read the  terms and conditions, and Facebook and these other sites are already so established and popular among how many users they have, so I do not see the sites disappearing. I think that Ello has such high hopes, but I think that they need to work out some kinks and make the website more visually appealing and easier to use first. I know that Facebook replaced Myspace and I think it was hard for people to believe that would happen when Myspace was popular, so I guess anything can happen with Ello, but then again, Myspace and Facebook both made revenue from advertising and third parties, so Ello may not follow in the same way. I guess we need to see what happens as it comes out of beta. I may request an invite, just to see what the social media site is all about, but I am not sure if I will be using it or if I would use it instead of Facebook or in addition to. I know I will not be deactivating my Facebook account any time soon.

Questions:

1. Will you try Ello? Why or why not?

2. Do you think Ello will be used in addition to Facebook or will people switch over to Ello because of the lack in use of advertising?

3. How else could Ello make enough money to maintain the website as a competitor of Facebook and other equivalent platforms?

4. Do you care so much about privacy that you would stop using Facebook and switch to Ello?

Works Cited

DeMers, Jayson. “Ello: What Is It And Why Does Everyone Want An Invite?”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 3 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/10/03/ello-what-is-it-and-why-does-everyone-want-an-invite/&gt;.

Depra, Dianne. “Report Claims Facebook Messenger App Packed with Spyware.” Tech Times RSS. N.p., 21 Sept. 2014. Web. <http://www.techtimes.com/articles/15981/20140921/report-claims-facebook-messenger-app-packed-with-spyware.htm&gt;.

“Ello Is Coming.” Ello. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2014. <https://ello.co/beta-public-profiles&gt;.

Falls, Jason. “The Hard Truths About the Fast Rise of Ello.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 1 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237972&gt;.

Strachan, Maxwell. “What Is This ‘Ello’ Everyone’s Posting About On Facebook?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 01 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/ello-facebook_n_5914762.html&gt;.why-does-everyone-want-an-invite/>.

Vaughn-Nichols, Steven J. “Ello: Be Ready to Say Goodbye.” ZDNet. N.p., 3 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.zdnet.com/ello-be-ready-to-say-goodbye-7000034333/&gt;.