Does being transparent ruin a PR blog?

by Mathew on October 20, 2006 · 33 comments

My blogging friend Tony Hung pointed me towards a new wrinkle in the ongoing saga of Edelman and Wal-Mart: a story in MediaPost describes how the PR company has essentially come out of the closet on its involvement with two other Wal-Mart blogs — the Working Families for Wal-Mart blog and the PaidCritics blog.

Rather than being anonymous, as they were before, posts on both blogs are now credited to individuals, whose names (first names only) are hyperlinked to bios that clearly say they work for Edelman. There is no mention of who Edelman is, however, or that the PR firm represents Wal-Mart, and there is no link to the Edelman website — and on the “About Us” page there is no mention that Edelman was involved in creating either site, or that both are financed by Wal-Mart.

astroturf

Of course, as more than one commenter has pointed out, pretty much anyone with a functioning brainstem would assume that anything called Working Families for Wal-Mart was obviously being paid for by Wal-Mart, and that any site trying to out and/or bash critics of Wal-Mart was also a paid shill. Which in raises the question that the MediaPost article gets into near the end, and that Tony also mentions:

If you’re being totally transparent, doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose of having such a blog? Feel free to let fly in my comments. BL Ochman says Edelman should be thrown out of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, and Shel Holtz says he thinks even the disclosure of ties doesn’t make the blogs any better. Freelance copywriter Carson has some thoughts here.

Update:

Steve Rubel says Edelman is listening to all comments and wants to do better, and Richard Edelman outlines some of the ways the firm is trying to do that. And Suw Charman has an excellent post on the topic at her Corante blog — she says the Wal-Mart blogs show that “too many people at Edelman think the old school way, about control and being on-message and spin” (Richard Edelman has posted a comment there in which he disagrees with her). My friend Rob Hyndman also has some thoughts about the “atomization of media” that are worth a read.

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