Newspapers to WalMart: buy an ad, get free PR

The National Newspaper Association (the trade association for small-town newspapers) has some stern words for WalMart, which has mounted a public relations and advertising campaign to fend off its critics:

So why is it that community newspapers in America are good enough to help you fend off critics with free PR, but we’re not good enough for your paid advertising?

You can’t have it both ways.

Based on a number of previous conversations I’ve had with newspaper publishers and editors across America, I don’t think you will find very many who are willing to give you the requested free PR space to fend off attacks from your corporate critics.

In other words, if you want us to run your free PR, you have to be an advertiser. There is no other way to read this. They’re not saying, “We wouldn’t carry your puff pieces even if you were an advertiser.” They’re saying, “Take out an ad and then we can talk about communicating your message with a little free coverage on our news pages.”

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