Kmart quietly unveils site to coax community action

TROY, MI: Kmart's communications team has launched a website to boost employee morale, get feedback from satisfied customers, and support grassroots PR efforts around the US.

TROY, MI: Kmart's communications team has launched a website to boost employee morale, get feedback from satisfied customers, and support grassroots PR efforts around the US.

The site, Kmartforever.com, serves as "a gathering place for supporters of Kmart to come together," said Dave Karraker, director of marketing communications. "All they see in the media are stories about the bankruptcy, but there are good stories out there about Kmart."

The site went live in early September and had gotten around 7,000 visits before Reuters wrote about it Sept. 23. Two days later, it received 15,000 hits in one day, Karraker said.

In addition to boosting morale, the site will help organize grassroots support for Kmart.

A section called Take Action encourages visitors to perform a monthly activity to support the retailer. September's suggestion was to write letters to local editors discussing what Kmart contributes to their local economy.

The site also provides a form letter, which states: "All I ask is that before anyone condemns Kmart, they think about what Kmart has brought to (your town). If you agree with me that it would be harmful if Kmart were to leave our town, then I encourage you to do whatever you can to support the company. Take at least one trip to your local Kmart store."

Karraker said of the site: "Kmart is looking to focus efforts in proactive PR, on building more grassroots communications and outreach efforts."

Visitors to the site can sign up for e-mail updates on Kmart and for suggestions on organizing local events.

Kmart store managers are also being encouraged to hold community events at stores to make them centers of local activity, Karraker said.

Kmart hasn't tried to publicize the site because "we want this to build and grow by word of mouth. We want people to feel it's theirs," Karraker said. More than 300 people have posted messages of support on the site's bulletin board.

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