NEW YORK: Communications leaders from Walmart and MasterCard highlighted how engagement has become a central force propelling their outreach efforts in the "Power Shift" session at PRWeek's Power to the People Conference on Wednesday.
Mona Williams, VP of corporate communications at Walmart, described how Hurricane Katrina was the impetus for the global retail giant's focus on the community. Spearheaded by then-CEO Lee Scott, Walmart decided it needed to help the people devastated by the disaster.
“It was an eye-opening moment,” she said. “The feedback we got from the communities we helped was phenomenal. From that point on, we decided to try to be the type of company that helped the environment, women, and various groups all the time. And the business impact of that has been evident. When we go into any market around the world, people know we're a good citizen.”
Common misperceptions were a driving force behind MasterCard's revamped strategy, noted SVP of external communications Andrew Bowins. “We're not a credit card company,” he explained. “We're a technology company that happens to be in the purchasing space.”
The need to tell that story to all consumers, including the 88 million Americans who do not have access to financial services, prompted Bowins' team to create a real-time communications model within the past 16 months that incorporates tools to monitor 43 markets in 26 languages, as well as curate and create content.
The empowered consumer has led to revamped social media strategies that have had a notable impact on both companies' reputations.
Walmart significantly segmented its Twitter strategy while creating local Facebook pages for all 4,000 of its locations. According to Williams, this played a major part in the company establishing a 92% favorability rating among its supporters and customers, which total approximately 140 million a week.
MasterCard created a “conversation ecosystem” that has enabled it to “establish a human voice in the financial conversation,” according to Bowins. This real-time interaction with consumers, he added, has also helped the company take advantage of the global popularity of its “Priceless” marketing tagline.
The “push and pray” model no longer works, said Bowins. “Customers are primarily the ones with the power now,” added Williams.