Wal-Mart's recent focus on openness sets example that PR is key tool in firms' arsenals

Wal-Mart has changed the retail landscape. With its commitment to turning the tide of public opinion its way, the company might have a similar impact on the PR landscape.

Wal-Mart has changed the retail landscape. With its commitment to turning the tide of public opinion its way, the company might have a similar impact on the PR landscape.

It has taken the company a long time to realize not only that others are winning the PR war, but that the PR war actually matters. CEO Lee Scott might sound a bit of a snarky note with his comment, "We actually do run a retail business, as well as a PR firm," but at least he is out there.

Other corporations are sure to notice this strategic shift and recognize how seriously Scott is taking it. It remains to be seen how successful Wal-Mart will be at sending the message that it does good things for the people it employs and the communities it occupies. But the message that a corporation has a responsibility to communicate - and that PR is at the center of advancing not only its business goals, but its goals of reaching employees and other stakeholders - has already been powerfully registered.

Credit for the move to openness clearly belongs to Mona Williams, VP of communications, and Jay Allen, SVP of corporate affairs, who have been quietly pushing the PR agenda. Most notably, the team is measured on its performance and held accountable at the highest levels.

Many in corporate PR complain that they do not have a seat at the table or that their CEOs don't "get it." But too few professionals have the courage or energy to do the hard work and embrace the accountability that is necessary to make real change happen.

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