Tuesday, April 5

Pre-emptive counterstrikes.

When you're as big as Wal-Mart, and you've been this silent for so long, the fact that you are talking is enough to make news.

The mega-mega-retailer is hosting a two-day media blitz in Bentonville, no doubt to start bending editorial ears to their spin on various issues.

For the longest time, Wal-Mart was able to enjoy the 8,000-pound gorilla position, and didn't have to address critics. The corporate growth curve was still sharp and steep, and if it ain't broke...

...we'll know in the next few days about how well Wal-Mart's spin legions are able to handle the pre-emptive counterstrikes. Labor organizations are feeding the media frenzy in the final hours, hoping to shape the debate.

This can be an effective tactic, when you know a competitor or adversary is on the brink of unveiling a new effort or campaign. At the very least, it projects your position as that of equal footing, and gives you at least a chance to frame the issues from your perspective.

Given the number of contentious issues that has hounded Wal-Mart in recent years (lawsuits over gender equity and the use of illegal aliens, predatory pricing practices, contracting out of the US...) this is probably a wise move. Any extra time Wal-Mart spends dealing with "labor-prepped" media will likely translate into extra ink. Even if the issue winds up being a wash, you're still getting free publicity for your cause, and even re-energizing your own base.

What you do give up, though, is the chance to get the last word. Wal-Mart will likely counter with a series of talking points, and given the fact they've had years to work on them, they'll probably be pretty good ones. That's a trade-off you have to consider when you time your releases and points to meet the other guy's calendar.

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