Publix vs. Vox: a case study in modern corporate public relations

by | Sep 19, 2023

In an utterly fascinating article by’s  Emily Jenkins, Publix Super Markets, Inc. is presented as an enduring force in not just the grocery world but also the complex socio-economic fabric of Florida. Jenkins brings an unabashedly progressive outlook to her story, with her bio even suggesting a healthy skepticism of capitalism. But from the headline to the closing period, it’s evident that Florida’s preeminent grocery chain has earned her respect, if not admiration.

The story is also a testament to how companies can successfully navigate the American cultural minefield without a catastrophic misstep – a feat that other formerly beloved brands – some right here in Florida – have failed at in sometimes spectacular fashion.

Over the span of the 3,000+ word story, Jenkins makes an attempt to attach several contentious issues to Publix—ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement, the Parkland school shooting, and the January 6th Capitol insurrection, as well as controversies related to vaccines and labor disputes. At one point, she even compares Publix to Chick-Fil-A, as though that’s a bad thing. But the criticisms seem to slide off Publix, like water off a duck’s back. The takeaway: Publix exists in a Teflon bubble where controversies make momentary headlines but rarely taint the brand’s overall image.

Undoubtedly, as Jenkins trolled Publix aisles, sampled the food, talked to employees and customers alike, Publix’s own PR team must have been on high alert, waiting for her story to run, unsure of what new controversies Vox might have stoked. But today, they should frame it and include it as part of their own internal training – a constant reminder of how they earned their corporate reputation and how they can continue to defend it.

The story highlights the chain’s deep-rooted influence in Florida, accentuating its customer-focused services, cleanliness, and the famous ‘Pub subs.’ Sadly, it makes no mention whatsoever of Publix’s greatest contribution to humankind: Chocolate Trinity ice cream. Nonetheless, Jenkins’ story reveals how those forces work together to create a very unique bond between the supermarket and its patrons. Publix is not just a shopping destination; it’s a part of Florida culture.

But beyond the sandwiches, clean bathrooms, and impeccable customer service, what makes this article particularly riveting is its inadvertent exposition on American corporate public relations in our modern era. Publix is, after all, a case study in balancing brand image, consumer loyalty, and social issues.

Jenkins delves into how Publix, even with its conservative approach to business and a couple of failed ventures, has adapted just enough to resonate with its consumer base. It’s not too progressive to alienate its older or more conservative customers but is contemporary enough to lure younger generations. Their partnerships with services like Instacart show their willingness to evolve but in a way that feels consistent with their long-standing brand identity.

This Vox piece, therefore, serves as an excellent read for anyone interested in understanding the art of corporate survival and brand endurance in an age of social media frenzies and rapidly shifting public opinion. Publix’s story, as laid out by Vox, illustrates how the brand has skillfully navigated the turbulent waters of public relations, and it might just have some valuable lessons for other corporations navigating the same.

Read the full story here.


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