Wal-Mart is Blogging Again and That’s a Good Thing!

checkout.jpg

A year and a half ago, Wal-Mart and marketing partner Edelman took a fair amount of heat from the social media and marketing communities for the fake blog “Wal-Marting Across America”. Another Wal-Mart blog, “Working Families for Wal-Mart” was also criticized as being nothing more than an extension of retail giant’s PR department. They were high visibility examples of the importance of Transparency.

Wal-Mart learned a valuable lesson from those failures: If you can’t be Authentic, you shouldn’t blog at all.

Despite the missteps, Wal-Mart seems to be committed to blogging. A NY Times story published today describes an active program in which various Wal-Mart merchandise managers (a.k.a buyers) are maintaining blogs. More importantly, the new corporate bloggers are openly encouraged to speak openly and honestly about their products and their lives, even it the result is not always complementary:

Microsoft is one of Wal-Mart’s biggest suppliers. But that did not stop the Wal-Mart employee in charge of buying computers from panning Microsoft’s newest operating system, Vista.

“Is it really all that and a bag of chips?” he wrote on his blog. “My life has not changed dramatically — well, for that matter, it hasn’t changed at all.”

His public burst of candor was not isolated. On the same blog, a video game buyer for Wal-Mart slammed a “Star Wars” film as a “debacle” even though Wal-Mart still sells the movie.”

This is really Wal-Mart? Yes, that was my reaction when I first read the article, but considering that Wal-Mart has always been a retail leader, it really isn’t all that surprising.  I also think this signals an important change in the traditional corporate approach to blogs and expect others to follow.

Wal-Mart isn’t the first to have corporate blogs, but historically they have been highly polished, filtered, lawyer-approved messages, ostensibly from CEOs and top executives. What’s different about the Wal-Mart blog site, called Check Out (checkoutblog.com), is that it turns that traditional model on its head. Instead of channeling high-level executives, it is written by little-known buyers, largely without editing.

The result is a much more personal look into the lives, opinions and tastes of the people who decide what stuff you can buy at the nation’s largest retailer:

“We are real people, and that gets lost in the to and fro of business,” said Nick Agarwal, a Wal-Mart communications official who helped develop the blog. “It puts real personality out there in a real conversation.”

…and that after all is the whole point isn’t.  Put a human face on your cold corporate exterior.

You should check out Check Out and then let me know what you think about it’s value.

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