Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Giving Back to the Community

Walgreens tries to gain support from consumers by giving back to the community. The public relations department of Walgreens have worked hard to get the company involved in communities more and more. They focus mainly on connecting with communities through charities related to health problems. Their mission statement says, "We will treat each other with respect and dignity and do the same for all we serve. We will offer employees of all backgrounds a place to build careers. We will provide the most convenient access to healthcare services and consumer goods in America. We will earn the trust of our customers and build shareholder value."

To show community support and follow their mission statement Walgreens is doing their best to keep their word. Walgreens' Wellness Tour is going to 75 cities within a year to bring free screening services and improved health awareness throughout the United States. This tour is a national effort to show they care about their customers. Gift cards are being given as rewards to Walgreens' employees this holiday season. The PR department thought of this good idea to motivate employees and to maintain a positive image of locals working at Walgreens.

Walgreens sponsored the American Lung Association's Blow the Whistle on Asthma walks in Illinois. In Chicago the Walgreens Drug Stores Hisorical Foundation set up an exhibit of the first Walgreens from 1901 for the public to visit. This is a creative, educational and fun way to look into the past to see how far Walgreens has come and to build trust based on many years of being in the pharmacy and retail business.

The Walgreens Alumni Association keeps retirees and former employees of Walgreens Co. in touch. Walgreens offers high schools the chance to have one of their representative come do a presentation for students about a career in retail or pharmaceuticals. Since pharmacists are in high demand, exposing students to careers Walgreens has to offer gets students interested and connects Walgreens to a younger generation.
Walgreens gives customers the opportunity to donate directly to organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Last year these donations generated $5.2 million. Having this option makes customers feel good about their trip to Walgreens. They are making donations too; Walgreens Co. has given $1.2 million to United Way to improve the social welfare of communities.

One-on-one tutorial programs for students have been established in seven inner cities across America. Walgreens mainly focuses on giving back to children and their aging customers. The PR department makes sure they have diversity among their community relations tactics. Other efforts they support are the American Red Cross, Abraham Lincoln Center, Expo for Today's Black Woman, Detroit Branch of NAACP, Houston Ebony Music Society, and Junior Achievement.

Another idea, since they do focus on children and health, is going to elementary schools during flu season and talking to them about the correct way to wash their hands, eating healthy, etc. I am genuinely impressed with the way Walgreens has become part of communities across the country. They have gained respect and allowed their business to thrive by respecting customers, employees, the public. Most importantly they not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk. Walgreens' PR practitioners truly understand reputation is the sum of relationships an organization has built.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Crisis Communications: Pharmacist Strike!

Corporations are defined by how they deal with crisis. It can make or break their reputation and the trust their consumers have in them. In 2005 pharmacists at about 400 Walgreens in northern Illinois and northwestern Indiana walked off the job complaining of inadequate staffing levels that they said could threaten patient safety.

In the Chicago Sun Times, Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin said all the affected pharmacies would remain open, but for less hours, which still meant 8am until midnight. The pharmacies were staffed by nonunion pharmacists and technicians. Polzin said the consumer relations department received calls from customers with questions about the strike, but the company had not received any complaints.

Walgreens was the first to give information about the strike before rumors started. Before the strike kicked off Walgreens' national director of pharmacy affairs, Phil Burgess, went on ABC Chicago and explained what their plan was if the union followed through with the strike. He reassured the public that pharmacies would stay open and pharmacists not involved in the union would continue to work and managers would come in from different regions. This showed that Walgreens had these plans already in place in case of a crisis. After the strike began the Walgreens spokesman, Michael Polzin, was chosen to address the media and be the single source of information throughout the strike to allow the public to put a face to the corporation and build confidence that Walgreens would take care of their customers throughout the strike.

According to 'Drug Topics' magazine, Polzin said "Publicly, union leaders talk about safety issues, but that is not what they are emphasizing at the bargaining table. Pay is always an issue and we have a very fair offer that keeps our pharmacies well staffed and pays our pharmacists well over $100,000 a year. Our pay package is a 20% raise over four years. Plus we have great benefits such as a stock-option plan and a profit-sharing plan. The profit-sharing plan matches over three dollars for every dollar that pharmacists contribute."

Polzin did a great job explaining their pay package and helping the public see that Walgreens is a good company to work for and that they do take care of their employees. He did say the pharmacists only wanted money, which may have upset the pharmacists, but he was being honest with the media.

Another thing the union worried about was the company's elimination of a staffing review committee. They argued that pharmacists filled over 500 prescriptions a day, and the review committee gave pharmacists an opportunity to request and document if they needed additional staffing.

In response, Polzin said the average number of prescriptions filled by pharmacists at the chain's stores is 280 a day, not 500. He added, "Our proposal does not eliminate the review committee, contrary to what the union has stated. Our proposal will make that committee more efficient. So rather than taking two to three months to get an answer back to the pharmacist, it will take only 10 to 20 working days."

Polzin's response was perfect because he corrected the inaccurate number of prescriptions filled a day and he corrected the negative idea of the review committee. He didn't admit fault for the strike, but addressed the pharmacists' complaints. During this strike Walgreens ran print and radio ads to let patients know that its pharmacies were still open. Walgreens handled the situation professionally and came out pretty clean. The pharmacists ended the three-week strike not getting what they requested, but feeling they at least forced Walgreens to be more aware of staffing levels and patient safety. Both sides seemed to end the strike without much animosity.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"The Pharmacy America Trusts"

The relationship between companies and consumers is more important now than ever. Businesses are working to build a positive relationship with their customers and making new customers into long term consumers. Public relations practitioners at Walgreens have come up with ways to keep their consumers happy and to make them feel connected to their local Walgreens. On Walgreens' Web site consumers can complete a survey about their opinions of the site. Their Outreach program provides people with disabilities with jobs. Customers can send emails with their feedback, complaints or praise. Consumers can sign up to receive their monthly newsletter and promotions via email. There is a section on the site called Our Community, the slogan for it is "Stronger Connections, Stronger Communities" which is exactly what the PR department wants people to associate with Walgreens.

Local manufacturers can use Walgreens as an outlet since the store manager has the authority to stock the store with special interest items to local residents. Walgreens stores sponsor several local healthcare events. They offer educational materials and counseling in multiple languages. The Rx labels are available in 14 languages. They also have one-on-one tutoring programs serving disadvantaged youth.

In store donations are offered for customers, which keeps people feeling Walgreens is giving back to the community. Many Walgreens employees are involved in charities, which helps the community see them in a good light. The PR department has done a good job choosing partners to associate with their company: JDRF, American Heart Association, AARP, American Cancer Society, Orchard Village, National Urban League, Abraham Lincoln Centre and American Red Cross.

There is a diversity calendar on the site where people can check what holidays are when. The most creative idea the PR department came up with was the Walgreen Wellness Tour, which is composed of four 38-foot vehicles customized for education and health-screening in a year nationwide health screening tour. One of the buses is affiliated with the National Urban League, which will visit 27 urban communities across the country. The tour aims to bring free screening services and better health awareness to communities throughout the U. S. and Puerto Rico. Walgreens goal is to provide approximately $1,000,000 per month in health care screening to the public. This wellness tour is a creative PR tactic for reaching the public in a new and personal way. Every area the tour buses visit will associate Walgreens with a pharmacy who cares about the community and their health. I would like to know when the tour starts, but its not said on the site. The locations they are planning on visiting are listed on the site.

The sponsors tied to the wellness tour are well known, respected companies and the public relations department of Walgreens has strategically chose sponsors who are either family or health oriented; Hallmark, Huggies, Hershey's, Kotex, Bayer Health Care, Actonel and Oscal are sponsoring the tour. This tour is a perfect consumer and company relationship builder as well as a smart marketing communication tool.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

Stanley Blaylock and Mia Scholz have been promoted from divisional to corporate vice presidents. Walgreens CEO Jeffrey A. Reins“We’re fortunate to have someone of Stan’s caliber and experience driving our specialty pharmacy expansion,” said Walgreens Chairman and CEO Jeffrey A. Rein. “He knows the business as well as anyone and is passionate about the benefits specialty drugs have on the lives of patients.”Here's what CEO Reins has to say about Scholz, “Mia’s opinion is sought and trusted on many matters because she cares deeply about our company and its future success,” said Rein. “She is one of the most principled and ethical people I know.”

According to Yahoo! Finance, Walgreens' Board of Directors adopted an amendment to the company's By-laws stating in order to be nominated to be as a director one must have reached their 72nd birthday first and secondly, the nomination must be approved by all other members of the Board of Directors.

It's National Breast Cancer month and Walgreens is selling mugs, socks, hats, ribbons, travel mugs, t-shirts, and 4-wheeled walkers to support breast cancer awareness. Apparently, Walgreens does care about their customers and community.

Regis and Kelly are doing a 3D Halloween special on October 31st and Walgreens is giving out the 3D glasses for FREE!! This is a great way to get more people going to Walgreens to get the glasses and picking up some things while they're there! What a creative idea on both of their parts.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Health, Happiness, Halloween & a Hard Week

A Walgreens subsidiary, Take Care Health Systems, is opening clinics in 9 new markets this fall in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa and Tucson, which will all open by the end of 2007. Take Care Health Systems' goal is to deliver access to high-quality, convenient and affordable health care to patients on their terms. Walgreens is supporting this aggressive growth strategy by bringing on instrumental health care executives and by opening an operations center in Fargo, North Dakota.

Sounds like Walgreens is busy, no wonder they're the nation's largest drugstore chain, bringing in about $54 million for the 2007 Fiscal year, which ended August 31, 2007. Although, according to The Chicago Tribune, the first week in October Walgreens' share plunged the most in 27 years. The stock fell $7.08 to $40.16 on the New York Stock Exchange. According to the Deerfield-based Walgreens, the plunge was the result of "poor performance on higher expenses and lower reimbursements for popular generic medications." Walgreens claimed expenses grew more than 11 percent, to $12.8 billion, due to more advertising, store and staff costs.

Walgreens will get it together, they just need to remember to stick by their Mission Statement:

'We will treat each other with respect and dignity and do the same for all we serve.
We will offer employees of all backgrounds a place to build careers.
We will provide the most convenient access to healthcare services and consumer goods in America.
We will earn the trust of our customers and build shareholder value.'

Walgreens' Flu Shot Program began October 1st. Flu shots are offered in all 48 states where Walgreens has stores. The shots at Walgreens stores with Take Care Health Clinics are administered by Take Care Nurse Practitioners. There are currently 46 Take Care Health Clinics inside Walgreens drugstores in Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

The Walgreens Outreach Program for those with disabilities is putting smiles on faces and keeping them there nationwide. Take a look at this heart warming report on the Outreach Program. On the Walgreens Web site there is a place where you can read Chuck's story, who is part of this program. It was smart to put an employee's story on the site to help people understand how much these jobs mean to them and their families. The Outreach Program is effective, rewarding and empowering.

On a lighter note, the Halloween Cutest Costumed Kid or Critter Photo Contest is underway and Walgreens has added a contest for the 'Most Hair-Raising Halloween House.' This is a great idea by the public relations department. The pictures and contests encourage people to check back at the Walgreens website and have fun looking through the Halloween photos. Make sure you vote for your favorites!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Techno S a v v y

Companies have been forced to keep up with technology to both entertain and inform customers by using new media, such as, blogs, videos, webisodes, webinars, and more. Consumers are in the driver seat and they're asking top companies, what can your website do for me? Web producers are expected to come up with creative ways to encourage customers to visit their website, remain there as long as possible, and return back regularly.

People are going to the Walgreens website to check out weekly ads, print out coupons, refill prescriptions, get info about diseases and conditions from the 'Health Library'. There is an animated feature where people can view animated videos of liposuction, cosmetic surgery, the effect of tobacco use on arteries and many more.

More things the site is useful for is finding the closest Walgreens, checking for the product you've been meaning to pick up or find a recipe for dinner tonight. There is plenty to learn when searching through this site. There's health calculators, contests, promotions, recall info, and photo

'Health Corner' TV is where walgreeners can watch several short informative health segments. If you have a child on the way or you're looking for guidance with children, take a minute to look at 'Moms Who Blog: Kids Corner' where mothers can get tips on things from keeping children safe in the summer to the proper dosage of certain medicines. Pssst... Walgreens -- You might want to put a link to this blog on your home page instead of counting on people to type 'blog' into the search box. It's a great idea, flaunt it! While you're at it, what about blogs for young professionals, seniors, or photo help for the digitally challenged? Speeches by CEO, Jeffrey A. Reins, should be put online for investors, employees, customers to hear.

The Walgreens P.R. team seems to be on top of the new media developments. I think they should engage their CEO more, by putting a blog video on the site. Their 'Halloween Headquarters' page was a little disappointing. I expected a more fun, interactive, and costume filled page, but instead its a little boy in a pirate costume and picture prices. Holidays are a perfect opportunity to be creative. They could link to a Halloween game and have a little more fun with it. I love the Halloween photo contest idea, but there should be a link on the home page for this to get more people involved. It's not even October yet, there's still time!

It's a challenge, but techno s a v v y companies are increasing customer satisfaction, bettering their reputation, and gaining more consumers in the process. It's P.R. utopia! Business is no longer: hello, purchase, goodbye. The corporation-customer relationship is more important than ever and new media is raising the communication bar.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


My name is Rachel, lets talk about what's up with Walgreens: the good, the bad and it might even get ugly.

I chose Walgreens as my company to blog about because they're a well-known, trusted corporation who stands by and follows through with their mission. Walgreens has a website, that's jam-packed with information; they seem to get that a company's website can make or break their ability to reach and keep customers happy. The site is easy to maneuver and almost anything you want to know about their products and the services they offer can be found with a only a few clicks.

A significant amount of money is donated by Walgreens to different charities and overall they have a positive reputation in the community. One common complaint about Walgreens is they charge a substantial amount more than Costco and Sam's Club for the same prescription. It's true, Walgreens and CVS both charge more, but you get what you pay for. Walgreens is a trusted company and people are paying their prices because they have other advantages such as drive-through and some 24 hour a day pharmacies. Also, some of their generics are covered by insurance. One thing that Walgreens has that Costco and Sam's Club fail to provide, is the sense of a tight-knit community pharmacy like 'Cheers' where everyone knows your name. It's hard to feel good about getting pharmaceuticals at a large warehouse.

Walgreens offers coupons every week and gives customers a chance to get great deals. I came across a blog by a woman, who bought a decent amount of products from Walgreens for a low cost by using the savings Walgreens has to offer. Their reputation for having good deals only gets better with blogs like these circulating throughout the Internet. It proves they really are trying to do business in the best interest of their customers.

The PR department at Walgreens is doing a great job at minimizing negatives, but they need to work on really maximizing their positives. The Walgreens Outreach program's main purpose is to hire people with disabilities and to help incorporate them into the work world of society. This is a positive and touching thing they're doing for people with disabilities. However, if I didn't search their website I wouldn't have known about it. They could play this up a little more. A woman blogged about how touching this program was so people are noticing and the image of Walgreens is getting better and better.

Walgreens PR seems to have it together and the employees seem to be happy. One thing their team could do is link the profile of their CEO, Jeffrey A. Rein, on the home page of their website because customers may not think to look under 'Press' for his biography. Rein could even have his own blog where he addresses recent topics related to Walgreens as a way for customers to get a chance to know him.

One More Thing...

On Wednesday September 12, 2007 Walgreens is filling up INKJET printer ink cartridges for FREE at more than 3,000 locations. Check out if your local Walgreens is participating in this. If so.... go fill up!! Good Job Walgreens for giving back to your customers!