When I first read about Wal-Mart’s blogger relations campaign in the NYT, I immediately assumed that the goal of the campaign was to improve Wal-Mart’s overall corporate image. Change the perception of Wal-Mart in the blogosphere and ultimately win the general public’s hearts and minds. That assumption led me to think the whole campaign just seemed off. Wal-Mart should have their own blog (or blogs), and perhaps launch an internal evangelist program. Engage in a conversation with their customers. A Wal-Mart version of Microsoft’s Channel 9. That would be an interesting program and I believe it is something worth pursuing.

But that’s not what Wal-Mart was up to. In terms of the online component, this is a public affairs campaign, not a PR effort. There’s a difference. The goal was to mobilize allies around issues Wal-Mart cares about, not to generally improve public perception.

  • Visit the site they have built around this effort, Wal-Mart Facts. This site is issue oriented and not aimed at the general public. It is for journalists, policy makers, investors and, well, anyone really engaged in Wal-Mart and its issues.
  • The blogger relations effort is being run out of Edelman’s DC office and is headed by conservative bloggers with political backgrounds. Its leader, Mike Krempasky, was the man behind RatherGate and is one of the folks behind RedState. These are political/public affairs pros, not PR folks.
  • The blogger outreach focused on political bloggers. And if you read the correspondence between an Edelman executive and one of the bloggers, it is an ideological pitch that is being made. The language being spoken is one that people who have only done PR work may not be used to or comfortable with. This effort has more in common with a political campaign than an effort to pitch bloggers on products.

I’ve personally done more online public affairs work than PR work, and I judged the campaign based on the wrong criteria. I think others are making the same mistake – judging a public affairs campaign as if it were a PR effort. It may seem obvious, but I think its an important distinction to make.

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About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.