Walmart and The Art of Being Human / by Chel Wolverton

As a member of the social media community, I often echo Chris Brogan's advice of be human.  My experience has been that for the most part people are human almost always.  When you hear corporate names like Walmart, you might not think of warm, human communication. Perhaps after reading this you'll reconsider. This afternoon my mom called to tell me that the ice storm dumped 2-3 inches of ice in the area, downing over 3000 electrical poles and leaving a good majority of Arkansas without power.  This includes several counties in Northeast Arkansas' homes, stores, schools and businesses.  I quickly covered the basics with her, my family has food, water and gas heat.  Trees are down everywhere but her house isn't damaged. They are the lucky ones.

Some people are without gas heat, without stocks of food and without electricity.  All of these things add up to a pretty bad situation.  As it's my hometown, I got a bit emotional and wanted to know what plans there were to get things that people need into the area and get the stores opened back up and operating.  (I'm currently trying to get in contact with a couple of officials in the town nearest my mom's to see what people need. As soon as I do and if we can find a way that online contributions will help, I'll update this post.)

One of the biggest presences in the area is Walmart. You may or may not know that Walmart was founded in Bentonville, Arkansas in 1962.  It grew across Arkansas quickly and, of course, is now a global chain.  What's intriguing is they have their own infrastructure for transportation and supply chain.  The story about the history and how the corporation functions is compelling.

That said, I've had a hard time thinking of them as being oriented toward social media and how that would work for a corporation of that size, even though we've seen Scott Monty and his successful work with Ford Company.

Cutting to the chase, I contacted Chris after Christopher Penn reminded me that Walmart did an astounding job during Hurricane Katrina, surpassing what the federal government was able to during a time of crisis.  Given that reminder and this is the state in which they were founded, I wanted to know if they had any plans to help people in the area and if there was a way to coordinate such.

Mr. Brogan connected me with Walmart's Emerging Media Strategy team member, John Andrews (@Katadhin).  He's actually in the midst of dealing with the same issues as the ice storm hit the city he resides in as well (Fayetteville).  However, when I got on the phone with him, he was more than happy to give me a few minutes of his time to not only tell me what he did know but find out what he could. While nothing is currently being planned by corporate affairs the door is open and he's willing to keep in touch me as he learns more.

John's response gave me a bit of information I didn't have before.  He certainly does not have to call me or direct message to tell me if anything changes, but he's willing to do so.  While corporations can't always respond the way we want them to do so, sometimes just a little human voice makes all the difference.  Even if there are no real answers.

Thank you, John.