October 16, 2006|
So it looks like there is yet another Wal-Mart/Edelman blog controversy. The gist of the story is that a blog launched in late September that was supposedly written by a couple traveling across America in an RV and spending nights parked in Wal-Mart lots. It turned out the blog was paid for by a Wal-Mart funded group and one of the blog's authors is a Washington Post photographer. None of this information was disclosed on the blog. You can read commentary on the issue here, here, here and here.
I think we are going to see lots more misteps like this in the coming months and years. Lots of companies and organizations are starting to cautiously participate in the blogosphere without really understanding it. Many are participating using an old school PR/advertising mindset. Meaning they are trying to manipulate people instead of trying to talk to them.
Note the blog is no longer active and older posts have been removed.
Update: Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel from Wal-Mart's PR firm, Edelman Public Relations, have dived on their swords for the lack of transparency in the Wal-Mart campaign and issued mea culpas. It was the right move.
But I think it is important to point out that this program was a bad idea even if Wal-Mart was completely transparent about the payment of the bloggers. The whole RV tour idea just strikes me as old fashioned and, well, boring. I don't think the point here is to bring the same tired old ideas to a new medium.