Wal-Mart speaks up to quell criticism

BENTONVILLE, AR: Wal-Mart is kicking off a major media offensive to counter the claims of its most vocal critics.

BENTONVILLE, AR: Wal-Mart is kicking off a major media offensive to counter the claims of its most vocal critics.

The push began late last week as key executives met with media representatives in New York, at company headquarters, and in 14 major markets across the country.

Hill & Knowlton is assisting with the outreach, expanding on an existing West Coast relationship with the retailer.

Ads bearing a message from president and CEO Lee Scott are appearing in more than 100 newspapers across the country. They carry the headline: "Wal-Mart is working for everyone. Some of our critics are working only for themselves."

Wal-Mart has also launched a website, Walmartfacts.com, to post information about the company, its impact on communities, and its labor practices.

It's a campaign Wal-Mart executives say will continue in some form throughout the year.

"There will be other things this year, but we're not revealing details," said Carol Schumacher, VP, Wal-Mart corporate affairs.

Fleishman-Hillard continues to work with Wal-Mart on other assignments.

The mega-retailer has long had a reputation for reticence with the media, but Schumacher said that era might be coming to an end. "We have become a target for others," she said.

"We decided that it was time to say something [and] to set the record straight."

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