Mona Williams: The Voice of Wal-Mart

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

Mona Williams might have stepped into the hardest job in public relations.

Williams, 56, left a job as vice president of field public relations for AT&T worldwide in 2002 to become the spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville.

Just before her first day on the job, The New York Times printed its "first front-page negative" story about the company, she said.

"I thought, 'Whoa,'" Williams said. "But I was committed, and it turned out to be a much bigger adventure than I had anticipated."

As vice president of corporate communications, Williams' duties include national media relations, executive communications and digital and Web communications for the No. 2 company on the Fortune 500 list. For its fiscal year that ended in January, Wal-Mart had revenue of $405 billion. Williams also handles speech writing, provides counsel to senior company leaders and communication support to Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke.

In 2005, PR Week said Williams had one of the most daunting jobs in public relations. "Williams is definitely an asset, however," the magazine said.

The Louisiana native graduated with a bachelor's and a master's degree in journalism from Louisiana State University in 1977 and went to work in the Louisiana Governor's Office in its office for consumer protection. "I toured the state talking to children about bicycle safety," she said.

Williams soon took a job at AT&T in 1978 and started in the sales and marketing department but eventually ended up in public relations. "I traveled all over the world [for the job with AT&T], but, ultimately, I was a little bored because I realized I personally wasn't making much of a difference," she said.

In 2002, Wal-Mart recruited Williams to its public relations department.

"I really wasn't interested, but I was intrigued enough to check it out," Williams said.

Upon arriving in northwest Arkansas, Williams "was immediately seduced. I mean it was lush and green; flowers were blooming."

As part of her interview, Williams attended a Saturday morning Wal-Mart meeting where the topics of discussion were the sale of bicycle accessories and should popcorn continue to be sold in the stores.



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