BENTONVILLE, AR: Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), the Edelman-run group designed to serve as a positive public face composed of supporters of the retailer, is being changed into a completely in-house endeavor. The company characterized the move as a response to a demand from employees, who want to use WFWM to tell their own stories to the public.
“Bringing it in-house allows us to do both…to have the external-facing part, but also bring our associates into it,” said David Tovar, Wal-Mart director of media relations.
Robert Hoppin, who manages the Wal-Mart client relationship for Edelman, declined to comment, referring questions to the client. Tovar said that “Edelman still works with Wal-Mart in terms of our overall PR strategy,” but said that “we don't comment about any of our vendor relationships,” including the one with Edelman. It was unclear whether the move of WFWM in-house represents a shrinking of the company's relationship with the firm.
Bad publicity has occasionally plagued WFWM; Andrew Young was forced to step down as its director after racially insensitive comments, and Edelman faced criticism last year when it was revealed that WFWM had paid a blogger for positive coverage without disclosure.
Asked if the negative publicity was a factor in the organizational shift, Tovar said “this is really just an effort to tell the story in a more efficient way.”
The change took effect at the turn of the New Year.