I wonder if Richard Edelman — or someone at the PR firm — is regretting that they ever decided to take Wal-Mart on as a client. It wasn’t that long ago that the company started a blogosphere flame war because it provided PR material to bloggers as part of a campaign to win the hearts and minds of America, material that some bloggers used without saying where it came from. Should they have disclosed that? Yes. Was it Edelman’s fault they didn’t? That’s a tougher one to answer. I would argue that it isn’t, but others disagree.

Now, the firm is under fire again for a “fake” blog about how great it is to drive your RV around and park overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots, something I wrote about here and many others have covered as well, including Shel Holtz, Scott Karp and Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests. So far, no response from either Edelman or its most famous blogger, Steve Rubel. Is the war room on full alert? I would expect so. But one wishes someone would come out and say something — anything.


There’s been a lot written about this, but it’s worth focusing on what exactly the point is. It’s not to beat up on Edelman, which I think is a fine company that does a lot of good work, and seems to want to do the right thing as far as the “conversation” is concerned. And I would argue that it’s not obvious the blog was a “fake” blog — from what I can tell, the people who wrote it really wanted to do such a trip, thought it was genuinely great, and simply got paid by Wal-Mart to do it.

But the disclosure was almost completely lacking — lacking to such an extent that one of the bloggers’ employers wasn’t even clear that there was sponsorship involved. Did Wal-Mart dictate what could be said about the blog? In all likelihood they did. And Edelman probably acquiesced at some point, when they shouldn’t have. If you’re going to try and have a genuine conversation — something Jeremy Wagstaff isn’t even sure is really possible when a PR company is involved — you’re going to have to try a lot harder than that.


Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel have both responded. See my updated post here.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

20 Responses to “Did Edelman drop the ball on Wal-Mart?”
  1. blogosphere over the last 5 days or so. It finally reached its nadir when Richard Edelman stepped in to officially address the issue. The irony here is striking: a company that established the guidlines for WOMMA

  2. As many of you know, over the past few days the blog community has been actively discussing the Working Families for Wal-Mart blog. As my CEO Richard Edelman explains on his blog, our firm failed to be completely transparent.

  3. transparency and genuine engagement. I learned a lot from them. Today, most comments on this story revolve around disclosing your relationships with your clients, or any parties central to the topic of your blog, disclosing being paid for blogging or sponsorship as well as lack of response from interested parties. I don’t have enough information to comment and I don’t want to (my employer is a competitor to Edelman so it will be misinterpreted) but surely we should know better by now?

  4. Did Edelman drop the ball on Wal-Mart? via Mathew Ingram: mathewingram.com/work October 16th, 2006 at 16:55

  5. [IMG] Did Edelman drop the ball on Wal-Mart?

  6.   同时,下面还有一些专家的评论:   Mathew Ingram—Did Edelman drop the ball on Wal-Mart?   BL Ochman—Strike Two for Edelman PR as Their Second Fake Wal-Mart Blog is Revealed   Jim and Laura’s blog—Wal-Marting Across America:  

  7. – secondly, interactions are increasingly likely to be ongoing, so eventually any “disguised cheat” behaviour will be surfaced (this is what happened to Wal Mart’s attempt to use “bloggers” who were actually PR guys. The Second Life experience is interesting in that it has mainly been about “First Life” companies using 2nd Life to get a buzz in the real world, so that the impact of upsetting all the inhabitants of Second Life was not apparent at first,

  8. Funny thing Mathew?
    Edelman COULD have denied it all away — there’s certianly enough loose ends for plausible deniability. Or maybe just mentioned something. ANYTHING.

    My humble opinion (and really, what’s that worth? :) is that the story is now LESS about Wal-Mart, and more about Edelman, and by extension Steve Rubel.

    I mean, if there really wasn’t anything going on — if Working Families for Walmart did this on its own without Edelman’s ok, well why not just say so?

    How about saying anything?
    Isn’t that what PR firms do?

    I have a thought. Maybe Steve Rubel was hypnotized into blogging about Google Maps this morning. ;)

    … hmmm … maybe not. :)

  9. I agree, Tony. At this point, it has become much more about Edelman’s response, or lack thereof — never the kind of position you want to be in as a PR company.

  10. […] PPS — I’m glad I’m not the only one who is a little speechless […]

  11. Where is this so-called fake blog? I can’t seem to find it, though there is plenty of people talking about it. Do you have the link?

  12. […] IT Business Elsewhere: What the rest of the IT industry is blogging about. Monday, October 16, 2006Was the fake Wal-Mart blog really genuine? Mathew Ingram/Work […]

  13. On Edelman and Wal-Mart…

    As many of you know, over the past few days the blog community has been actively discussing the Working Families for Wal-Mart blog. As my CEO Richard Edelman explains on his blog, our firm failed to be completely transparent. I…

  14. […] Schauen wir rüber zum A-bloggenden Mitarbeiter Steve Rubel, der nach dem Chef nun auch ein Statement abgeben darf: As many of you know, over the past few days the blog community has been actively discussing the Working Families for Wal-Mart blog. As my CEO Richard Edelman explains on his blog, our firm failed to be completely transparent. I am sorry I could not speak about this sooner. I had no personal role in this project. There is a process in place that I had to let proceed through its course. This is why it took some time. Like Richard says, we are committed to the WOMMA guidelines on transparency. […]

  15. Firestarter Part Two…

    I truly believe that Edelman and their entire roster of PR professionals/Bloggers are deeply sorry for what has become a fake Blog issue. Edelman admitted that they were behind the creation of a fake Blog (Flog – not sure I’m……

  16. I love this site.648142049

  17. My name is Jeff O'Mally, I'm writing to you because of an insident that happend. I'm a music fan, buy a collect music! While I'm checking the music out, GIFT CARD from WALMART “Flashing”, HMMMM. YOUR SURVER WENT OUT!!!! YA RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then I was told to write to get it back. So, all I want is the $1,000 gift card with every thing on it! PLEASE & THANK YOU!!!!!!!
    Sinceraly yours,

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