Saturday, June 7, 2008

Retail Memo: Whole Foods Market, Inc. Launches New and Improved Company Blog; Leadership 2.0 and Increased Transparency on the Move in Food Retailing

On Thursday, May 22, Natural~Specialty Foods Memo wrote this piece about Whole Foods Market, Inc. CEO John Mackey's return to blogging, reactivating his blog after putting a temporary hold on his blogging activity on July 17 when a special committee of the retailer's board of directors launched an investigation into his postings on Yahoo Finance message boards using an assumed screen name.

The board of directors committee cleared Mackey of any wrongdoing regarding the online message board postings, but did put in place some rules prohibiting Whole Foods' senior corporate executives--including CEO Mackey--from making such posts in the future.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also launched an investigation into CEO Mackey's postings under the screen name "Rahodeb," in which he posted in favor of Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s acquisition of Wild Oats Markets, Inc., along with pointing out in his posts the shortcomings of Wild Oats senior executive team and the performance of the supermarket chain in numerous online postings.

Whole Foods acquired Wild Oats in an all-stock transaction which was supported by Wild Oats and its shareholders.

Last month, the SEC cleared Mackey of any wrongdoing regarding his Yahoo Finance board online postings under the screen name "Rahoded."

As we reported on May 22, on May 21 John Mackey returned to his blog with this post.

It now appears CEO Mackey's return to blogging has Whole Foods in a blogging state of mind. The supernatural foods retailer has created a new and improve corporate blog called "Whole Story: The New and Improved Whole Foods Market Blog," as pictured at the top of this piece.

The blog will feature various Whole Foods employees, writing about topics ranging from organics, supporting local growers and green issues, to social responsibility, micro-lending, and a host of food-related topics.

Current postings on the blog, written by Whole Foods Market, Inc. staffers, include a couple pieces on the organic foods from China issue, a piece about the recent salmonella in tomatoes issue, a plug for John Mackey's blog, and a couple other posts thus far.

Here's the story on the Whole Foods "Whole Story" blog from a June 2 post by Whole Foods' Paige Brady:

Thanks for checking out our new and improved blog. We’re really excited to have this space and wanted to give you a quick heads up about what we plan to do with it.

Many passionate people work here and they know the inside scoop about what’s happening in their area of expertise — organics, local growers, body care, green practices, social responsibility, micro-lending and all kinds of food-related stuff. Since we share this info with each other all the time, we figured you’d be interested too! We are lining up quite a few different writers to blog about what’s going on around here.

Paige Brady's description of the new and improved Whole Foods Market blog is an example of what we call here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo leadership 2.0 in the food and grocery retailing industry. That's when food retailing executives figure out since we live in an interactive, digital world rather than the analog world of old, that means food retailers and other businesses need to communicate with their stakeholders using the tools of interactivity, along with ore conventional means.

It's also an example of another aspect of Leadership 2.0: increased transparency. This sentence is key: "Since we share this info with each other all the time, we figured you'd be interested too." That's transparent, Leadership 2.0 thinking.

Analog thinkers and corporate cultures keep that "expert" opinion and information to themselves. After all, how can they remain "the experts" if they share it with customers and readers. Digital-oriented, transparent Leadership 2.0 thinkers and cultures know information sharing means power rather than a loss of status in expert land. That power is the power of many interacting, sharing information, rather than the stove-piping the information within a small group.

Successful 21rst century food retailers will be those who figure out and implement Leadership 2.0 thinking and practices. After all, today's 18-30 year-olds demand it--as well as a few of us over 40--and they are the majority consumers of the near future.

The new blog already has lots of reader comments on a number of the posts, even though its brand new.

Whole Foods is touting the blog prominently on its website at present; its the first thing you see when you log on to the food retailer's website homepage.

The new and improved blog also will be used to feature recipes, including offering them in audio and video as well as in text. Whole Foods already had a blog. But "Whole Story" is a vastly expanded and improved version of that former corporate blog.

For example, as you can see here (scroll to the bottom) there's a video recipe for bacon-wrapped shrimp and one for Cornish Game Hens. All the blog's readers have to do is click and watch.

In fact, it might just be Cornish Game Hens for dinner tonight here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo. That video is pretty enticing. Plus, its been a while since we've tasted the succulent little hens. We aren't telling where we will buy them though. Not everything has to be transparent, even for us Leadership 2.0 types.

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo will be watching Whole Foods' "Whole Story" blog closely and writing about it when we feel it's warranted.

Meanwhile, time for the Cornish Game Hens.

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