Whole Foods hands AOR account to MWWPR

The agency has two teams working on the grocery retailer's AOR account.

AUSTIN, TX: Whole Foods Market has selected MWWPR as its PR AOR.

Two separate teams at MWWPR are handling national and regional marketing and PR efforts for the food retailer, a source familiar with the matter confirmed. The projected annual fee for both teams is between $700,000 to $1 million, according to documents obtained by PRWeek.

Previously, Whole Foods had up to 15 agencies or teams engaged concurrently. Regions and in some cases business categories at Whole Foods, secured and worked with their own PR firms to support local and regional earned media outreach as well as minimal creative PR campaign development and execution.

"In 2016, processes were streamlined, and all agencies were cut to ensure a more thoughtful, strategic, and efficient approach," according to the RFP document.

PR had been handled internally at Whole Foods since last April. Brooke Buchanan, global VP of comms and government affairs at Whole Foods, led the team until she left the company in April of this year. A source familiar with the matter said that the comms function at Whole Foods changed when the retailer was acquired by Amazon last June for $13.7 billion.

The Amazon deal has led to a significant increase in media attention, which also "increased negative sentiment based on inaccurate assumptions about the brand now that is it part of Amazon," according to the RFP document. Negative and inaccurate assumptions and storylines include the brand’s move away from local products and suppliers and reduction in quality and consistency, according to the document.

Whole Foods wants to dispel negative assumptions and reiterate that the acquisition has not and will not shift the brand’s priorities, according to the document. The acquisition also created a "deeper need" to reinforce key differentiators, core values, and unique products and experiences.

Whole Foods brought on MWW to create an always-on news approach and develop creative thinking for strategic campaigns to drive key messaging for business categories and brand. The agency is supporting the company on openings, product launches, and regional and local priorities. The firm will also help Whole Foods generate "mass coverage" for co-branded programs and campaigns, as the company continues to integrate with Amazon, according to the document.

MWW is handling media relations, specifically targeting U.S. media, such as national, top-tier consumer media, regional, and local outlets. The target demographic is college-educated working families and individuals.

The agency will also help Whole Foods with "minimal and sporadic crisis support," such as message development and monitoring. Recent brand crises have included data security, supplier issues, animal welfare protests, food safety concerns, and product labeling issues.

The RFP process started in January, and MWW was awarded the business in Q3, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Representatives from MWW and Whole Foods were not immediately available for comment.

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