Working Families for Wal-Mart May Be Dying
Wal-Mart has a lamentable record when it comes to running Web sites; its phony Walmarting Across America site, launched after consulting with PR giant Edelman, was shut down last October after its sponsorship became public, creating a huge PR scandal. And while everybody knows that Wal-Mart pays the bills at Working Families for Wal-Mart, at the domain forwalmart.com, the site doesn't even mention this in its About section, leading to an obviously inevitable question: "What is Wal-Mart trying to hide?"
Oddly, the Working Families for Walmart site looks as if it's been languishing for the past few months. Its News Center section was last updated in February: that's five months ago. Its Featured Stories section is also showing its age, no stories have been uploaded since February of 2007. Interestingly, another Wal-Mart-funded site, PaidCritics.com ("Exposing the Paid Critics of Wal-Mart") was last updated in March. That's a lot of bitrot for any multi-billion dollar retailing giant to tolerate.
Could it be that Wal-Mart has abandoned its habitual Sock Puppeting/AstroTurfing strategy of launching phony sites to influence public perceptions? Let's hope so: this kind of thing represents the worst kind of corporate behavior in cyberspace, and undermines whatever trust users might otherwise have in the company.
If Wal-Mart wants to rebuild its online reputation, it needs to take steps in the direction of transparency and accountability, pledge that it will not engage in deceptive practices online, and relegate sites such as Working Families for Walmart to the dustbin. (Note: I am neither a paid critic of Wal-Mart nor in the pay of Wal-Mart.)