Walmart woke up to a social media crisis this week after comedian Travon Free noticed the retailer used a racial slur on an online product posting. Free sent a tweet – with the info – to his and Walmart's Twitter feeds.

To their credit, Walmart was quick to step into the fray, identify that the post came from a third-party vendor, and issue an apology and a promise to investigate the suspicious posting. But is it enough?

Fortune.com ran an editorial piece which included a harsh critique of the retailer, and a word of warning to all of us who represent our organization online. In the editorial, speechwriter Paul Pendergrass said, “The company should treat any product it sells as if it is stamped with the Walmart trademark. Because in the consumer's mind, if you sell it, you own it.”

It's true. In today's world, perception is reality. People don't often check the source. They assume that because we've said it – or posted it – that we own it.

So do yourself a favor when it comes to social media – or on-air information:

1) Check your source. Are they credible?

2) Check the content. Is it accurate? Does it match your brand? Does it reflect the image you work hard to build in your audience's mind?

3) When in doubt, don't. You work too hard to create a solid brand … and there's a lot more content – better content – that you can use in its place.

Walmart will recover. But in the future, they'll screen posts and vendors more carefully. Save yourself the headache by learning from Walmart's crisis and screening your content to make sure it matches your branding and messaging.

Bill Arbuckle CMW

Bill Arbuckle is a media and marketing pro with over twenty-five years experience in creating media promotions. You can connect with him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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