The most recent Harris Interactive “Reputation Quotient Survey,” conducted in November, found that Walmart’s brand suffered a drop in reputation in 2012. The alleged bribery in Walmart’s International division is likely to have contributed to the decline, but are labor problems at Walmart—strikes at stores and deaths in its supply chain—to blame, too? According to Infegy’s Social Radar, a social media monitoring and analytics system, the answer is yes. Early this year, Walmart made promises to hire more veterans and buy more American-made goods—two initiatives widely recognized as a clever PR strategy to clean up its sullied image. But Social Radar found that the PR efforts had significantly less resonance on social media than did the reports of hundreds of Walmart associates striking on Black Friday and the deaths of over 100 Bangladeshi workers in a supplier’s factory making Walmart-brand apparel.
If the company expects that its labor troubles will pass if it just ignores them, it may need to think again: Problems have continued unabated into 2013, with workers in Maryland and Texas striking again in early February against Walmart’s Unfair Labor Practices.