Strike Three for Edelman

First, let me say that I am a big fan of Steve Rubel, Phil Gomes, and many other Edelman folk. But, for a PR team that claims such impressive stars in its line-up, it’s been striking out big-time with the Wal-Mart account.

The inimitable John Wagner points us to this incredibly lame experiment by Edelman’s Wal-Mart team: they set-up a fake blog, "Wal-Marting Across America" featuring a professional writer and WaPo photog (incognito), RV’ing throughout America’s Wal-Mart parking lots. The fact that this was a PR stunt, with paid bloggers on-board, was not disclosed. According to MediaPost:

"The blog, launched Sept. 27, was profiled in this week’s issue of BusinessWeek, which exposed the site as a promotional tactic engineered by Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), an organization launched by Wal-Mart’s public relations firm Edelman. WFWM paid for the RV and all travel expenses, rerouted the trip’s original plan, and plastered a logo on the RV’s side. Although the blog featured a link to WFWM, it did not identify the organization as a paid sponsor."

This is wrong on so many levels. And it is Stike 3 for Edelman (not Strike 2, as Joseph Jaffe suggests). Edelman, the self-described leader in me2, in transparency, in Social Media PR strategies. (Or, maybe not.)

Strike 2 was Edelman VP Mike Krempasky’s (debatable) handling of the Consumerist flap.

Strike 1 was the bungled blogger relations campaign in March 2006.

Note to the good guys at Edelman: it is not just your agency but your own credibility that is on the line when a.) your agency TALKS about transparency but does not PRACTICE it, and, b.) you don’t blog about these fiascos (pro or con).

Silence is not golden. Silence gives consent.

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Posted on: October 12, 2006 at 10:57 pm By Todd Defren
13 Responses to “Strike Three for Edelman”


  • Ian Welsh says:

    Oh my, I hadn’t noticed before that Edelman’s head of online public affairs is Mike Krempasky. (Or was, is he still?)


    Nothing against Mike, who I understand isn’t a bad guy, but he’s such a heavily partisan figure that anyone on the other side of the political divide, even slightly, is going to distrust anything he does or is involved in.

    Where I come from, Edelman has just told me everything I need to know about their politics – and trust me, many other political influentials will feel the same way.

    And it doesn’t look like Republicans are going to be in charge of every branch of government any more, pretty damn soon….

  • Dee Rambeau says:

    And finally we get a response from Richard Edelman. Duly noted and noble…but it’s like Jerry Jones talking to the press after making his contribution to the Dallas Police Fund to keep them from bitching about T.O.s denial of his suicidal comments.

    It’s NOT transparent…they DIDN’T join the conversation…and having the CEO make the response without any of the culpable participants joining the conversation is absolutely inexcusable. A big agency could truly screw up a wet dream.

  • Rachel S says:

    I am a student at Auburn University and Rick Murray, the general manager of Edelman PR Worldwide was visiting our class week.

    He lectured about blogging and social media and the like and my classmates and I were very impressed. A company that was actually practicing what my professor had been preaching.

    He talked about the dos and don’ts of being hired, being promoted and getting ahead in the business world. I was raised with morals and values and none of them ever included hypocrisy.

    I checked Edelman’s 6am blog today and there is still no comment on Walmart or anything about fake blogging. Being one of the biggest PR firms in the world you would think that they would know how to do damage control. As for me I guess I’ll just have to look up to a new PR God!

  • It’s PR 101 – get it out of the way and don’t make a one day story a multi-part mini-series.

    I haven’t seen anything on any of their personal or Edelman’s blog. Tell me if I’m missing something, but it seems like the silent treatment, but maybe given Wal-Mart’s latest experiences with the media it’s just best to go about your business, give people low prices and the sun will rise again tomorrow.

    This whole thing will be another blip and nothing bad will result from it. So perhaps the rules of PR 101 are being rewritten.

    If so, then what we will learn is that social media really doesn’t matter.

  • Owen Lystrup says:


    Absolutely Edelman should have resigned the account. They absolutely should have known better. And yes, it’s absolutely wrong for Edelman and Wal-Mart to stay silent about it.

  • Answer #1: Yes. They’ve invested too much on their reputation in this space to allow this kind of harm.

    Answer #2: Yes. A fake blog? That’s an oxymoron and they should know better.

    Answer #3: Inexcusable. Where is Edelman’s response? It’s been more than 48 hours and we’re still waiting…

  • Todd Defren says:

    Great comments, folks.

    Owen – I am actually more scandalized by the thundering silence of Edelman’s (usually excellent) bloggers in the face of this firestorm than I am by the actual Wal-mart’ing campaign.

    Question #1 – Assume Wal-Mart insisted on “opacity” – should Edelman have resigned the Big Account to protect their own reputation?

    Question #2 – If Edelman had the idea to do this campaign, then their own credentials & common sense are seriously undermined.

    Question #3 – Now that this is out in the open… NOTHING from Edelman or its bloggers? Whether they have been ordered to stay silent or not, it’s stinking of hypocrisy AND shows an utter lack of understanding/respect for the blogosphere’s people and practices.

  • So how much do you think they billed?

  • Owen Lystrup says:

    I’m left wondering how much at fault Edelman is, and how much at fault Wal-Mart is.

    There have been many tales of distributors for large companies not being able to negotiate with Wal-Mart, and of Wal-Mart being absolutely intolerable of any large company raising prices or changing format because of rising production costs.

    Couple this with Wal-Mart’s past history of being completely aloof of any bad publicity and refusing to answer back or participate, you’re left with one question.

    Is Wal-Mart the type of company that can be in the blogosphere? Is it a type of company that will take PR advice seriously, even if it comes from a heavy hitter like Edelman?

    Of course, this in no way absolves Edelman. They knew what they were doing, and they knew it was wrong, especially after touting how “transparent” they are about social media practices. This is just a slap in the face.

  • James Clark says:

    Strike three looking….You would figure they would go down swinging by joining the conversation, but instead they just left the batters box without saying a word.

  • Todd Defren says:

    Strumpette, I admit it, you were right all along.

  • I am just shocked!

    - Amanda

  • JamesBruni says:

    Your post is right on target. Finally, PR bloggers are understanding how screwed up the Edelman Blogging strategy is for Walmart and the agency itself.

Show some social media love would ya?

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