Wal-Mart Way Exploring Effective Strategies in the Global Market Place

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Corporate Reputation Management, The Wal-Mart Way: Exploring Effective Strategies in the Global Market Place

A Senior Honors Thesis by Nancy Diana Davis

Submitted to the Office of Honors Programs & Academic Scholarships Texas A&M University In partial fulfillment of the requirements of the

UNIVERSITY UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOWS

April 2007

Major: Communication

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ABSTRACT

Corporate Reputation Management, The Wal-Mart Way: Exploring Effective Strategies in the Global Market Place (April 2007)

Nancy Diana Davis Department of Communication Texas A&M University Fellows Advisor: Dr. Charles Conrad Department of Communication

The global marketplace has experienced an influx of messages surrounding the issues of corporate social responsibility and the effect of the economy on social values. Much of this debate is centered on appeals to business, government, and social organizations to actively pressure structures of commerce to maintain, if not improve, the quality of life for the public. As the world’s largest corporation, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has come under heavy attack from many groups which hope to change the company’s policies in order to better serve the greater community. The rhetorical discourse between these groups has cultivated an ongoing conversation composed of complex and strategic maneuvers, many of which are designed to either damage or boost Wal-Mart’s public reputation. The purpose of this study is to explore the reputation management strategies and themes present in the ongoing discussion between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and their

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counter points, specifically within the issues of labor relations and healthcare. This study was conducted in order to identify reputation management strategies employed by WalMart Stores, Inc. and their rhetorical counterpoints. In addition to an extensive review of corporate communication theory literature, the paper demonstrates the pertinence of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. as a case study. Several themes have emerged throughout the rhetorical activities of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. which I argue will not pacify the relentless devotion of their foes, but rather spur on more rhetorical action. The paper concludes, then, that reputation management must be a continuous process for corporations. In order to withstand the turbulence of negative events, company’s such as Wal-Mart must bolster their images and trustworthiness in an ongoing campaign as opposed to sporadic issue management. Furthermore, the rhetorical discourse which occurs between the corporate world and its respective foes and surveillance groups requires the participation of all sectors of society to create constructive and progressive solutions. Unless all stakeholders are actively engaged in the problem solving process, the system will continue to disenfranchise various groups of society, further perpetuating a rhetorical cycle that neglects comprehensive, positive, systematic change.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This research has been made possible, in part, by funds from the Office of Honors and Academic Scholarships and by funds from the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research. I would also like to thank Dr. Charles Conrad for his direction and supervision in this study.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ABSTRACT………………………………………………………….. ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………..… iv TABLE OF CONTENTS…………………………………………..… v INTRODUCTION………………………………………………......... 1 LITERATURE REVIEW…………………………………………….. 4 Corporate Communications and Public Relations………….. 4 The Corporate Campaign: The Other Side of the Story…….. 20 Making the Case for Wal-Mart………...…..……….............. 30 METHODOLOGY…………………………………………………… 42 CHAPTERS Wal-Mart and Healthcare: Exploring the Complex Nature of Employer-Based Coverage……………………………….. Labor Relations in the 21st Century: How to Convince External Groups That You Care, When You Can Not Afford To Actually Do So………………………………………….. The Many Sides of Reputation...
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