#PRWin: “The Wal-Mart Slayer: Publix’s People-First Culture”

publix-winnerPublix has emerged as the winning grocer, beating out well-known kingpin Walmart and its vice grip on grocery store stardom. How did Publix do it?

Real Public Relations: staying true to its culture of not only honoring, but also rewarding its public.

Publix Vs. Wal-Mart: How the World’s Discount Retailer is Losing to a Florida-based Grocer

Publix is not only the largest employee-owned company, but also the most profitable grocer in America – a fact that we at JoTo PR attribute to the company’s large emphasis on employee and customer service and satisfaction.

Sticking to the plan:  Publix has thrived by continually delivering quality service to its shoppers by comprising its largest collective shareholders of its own employees – all staff who put in 1,000 work hours and a year of employment receive an additional 8.5% of their total pay in the form of Publix stock. Publix almost exclusively promotes from within, and every store displays advancement charts showing the path each employee can take to become a manager.

The company also encourages its associates to rotate through various divisions:

  • A former cake decorator in a store bakery is now in charge of all strategy for its bakeries.
  • A distribution-center manager overseeing 800 associates got his start unloading railcars.
  • When Lakeland store manager Edd Dean started bagging groceries as a teenager, he never expected to still be working in a supermarket 30 years later. “When I graduated college I had been seven years at Publix, and I started looking for a ‘real job,’?” he says. “I interviewed at a lot of companies, but the manager I was working with kept hounding me to come to Publix. Eventually it just clicked.” Dean is one of 34,000 employees who have more than ten years of tenure.(2)

Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw recognizes the power of associate ownership.

0723_publix-billboard_800x558Publix has effectively developed a hammerlock in the lucrative Florida market. But now Walmart, which has long been known for its affordable prices, is targeting Florida as its next Southern state to conquer – but what Walmart fails to realize is that rock-bottom prices are not always the key to retaining a positive public image. Take a look at Walmart’s many PR blunders in light of a recent bribery scandal, for example:

  • Walmart allegedly facilitated bribes of $765,000 so it could build “a vast refrigerated distribution center in an environmentally fragile flood basin north of Mexico City, in an area where electricity was so scarce that many smaller developers were turned away.”
  • Archaeologists began to find evidence that Walmart “was building on ancient ruins. They found the remains of a wall dating to approximately 1300 and enough clay pottery to fill several sacks. Then they found an altar, a plaza and nine graves.” A media blitz ensued.
  • Locals began publicly protesting that Walmart was allegedly building on ancient ruins. Anonymous sources who worked at Walmart Corporate at the time said that protesters in Mexico were dismissed as “a fringe group, like they were from Occupy Wall Street.” The market still opened.

A Walmart spokesman defended the company, saying that “none of the associates we have interviewed, including people responsible for real estate projects in Mexico during this time period, recall any mention of bribery allegations related to this store.”(1)

So who exactly is Walmart to pass judgment on a company’s chosen business practices? If you ask me, Walmart could stand to take a lesson from a company like Publix – or use the help of a strategic PR firm experienced in Crisis PR.

Publix had a plan: Overwhelm new customers with a full-service experience – and it worked.

Moral of the story:  “The proof is in the pudding.”  Publix stuck to its plan of putting people first.  The people that Publix employees are the best Crisis management PR prevention plan.  And there is nothing like true PR which is PROOF.  Publix proves it and proved the naysayer wrong.

  1. Bhasin, Kim, and Ashley Lutz. “7 Stunning New Details About Walmart’s Mexican Bribery Scandal.” Business Insider, 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.
  2. Solomon, Brian. “The Wal-Mart Slayer: How Publix’s People-First Culture Is Winning.” Forbes Magazine, 24 July 2013. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

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