• Liliana Green

Press Without PR: Costco Understood the Assignment

One of the most beloved brands manages to get incredible press without public relations

By: Lily Green

Costco Wholesale logo

Whoever Said Money Can’t Buy Happiness Didn’t Know Where to Go Shopping

I LOVE Costco! And that was the reason I chose to write about the samples-galore retailer. As I began researching, I was surprised to learn that Costco doesn’t have a PR team. Like, at all. Other retailers spend millions of dollars on ads. No, billions! And perfect Costco spends nothing. To me, public relations is the professional building and maintenance of an organization’s reputation to forge positive relationships with their audience. And I truly believe Costco is the epitome of positive relationships, with not only their customers, but their employees and communities as well. I was a little disappointed, for this blog’s sake, when I learned they had no PR department. But how do they maintain such a good reputation?

Their Most Important Public

"We consider advertising evil,” said Costco founder, Jim Sinegal in a 2013 interview. “Because it costs money; anything that is going to raise our price on merchandise is bad. We’ve got to have that type of an attitude.”

Thank you, Jim! Loyal customers like me truly appreciate it. Senegal continues to explain that departments like public relations and advertising don’t exist at Costco because it would rather allocate its funds toward their most important public, its employees.

Paying employees a livable wage with great benefits and making quality products affordable for their consumers is of utmost importance. Did you know, Costco offers full medical and dental insurance (even to its part-time employees), a 401(k) plan with stock options after one year of employment, and abundant vacation time and family leave?

No wonder Costco regularly tops lists as one of the best places to work in America. Fun fact: during the 2008 recession, Costco refused to lay off employees, offering pay them raises instead.

Doing The Right Thing

Costco pledges to provide members with high-quality goods at the lowest possible price while respecting people and the environment. The retailer is committed to protecting the human rights, safety and dignity of our farmers through its Supplier Code of Conduct. It also implements good land stewardship practices allowing rural suppliers and their communities to thrive.

Costco also supports the Five Freedoms of animal well-being, sharing that they believe it is the right thing to do. Their Chemical Management Policy also helps protect the health and safety of its consumers by developing products that are safer, healthier and more sustainable. They have recently enhanced their efforts to work with qualified minority and women-owned suppliers in their local communities as well.

Shoppers at Costco during the pandemic
Shoppers at Costco during the pandemic

COVID-19 Response

Ah, COVID. Before the pandemic even became a pandemic, Costco had the right idea about how to keep its employees and patrons safe. The retailer immediately implemented policies and procedures including requiring face coverings for both employees and shoppers, closing their food court and installing face shields at all cash registers. Most importantly, they implemented special operating hours for those most at risk: members aged 60 and older, those with disabilities and those who are immuno- compromised. But that is not all, they also allowed members who were healthcare workers and first responders to shop during those hours as well.

“Costco is like a massage.” - Kris Jenner

All these things combined in addition to their strong presence online and on social media lead me to believe that Costco indeed meets my definition of PR. Even without an official public relations department, the professional building and maintenance of Costco’s reputation continues to forge positive relationships with its audience.

Like a massage, Costco makes me feel good. Especially after this project. From the high value it places on its employees to its humanitarian efforts, they have proven their desire to provide quality products to their consumers while at the same time providing quality experiences. They are the fifth largest retailer in the world for a reason, you know.

About the Author

A picture of the author, Lily Green

Lily Green is a public relations professional in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She graduates in May 2022 from the Mayborn School of Journalism at University of North Texas with a concentration in public relations. She is also the Brand Manager for AGENZ PR in Frisco.