Blog Post

Edelman’s Wal-Mart Blog Fails Transparency Test

Even in the new world of alleged disintermediation, public relations firms still want to play the gatekeeper role. Edelman PR has been one of the companies working hard to stay relevant despite the new reality in which its clients have less control over what is said publicly about it. But last week, it became clear that Edelman had pulled a classic online mistake, producing a travelogue blog for Wal-Mart without revealing who was paying for it. (The old site has been taken down except for a defensive front page. Those who want the history can thank Google Cache.) After the usual blogger outrage, Richard Edelman has now apologized on his blog. He says he accepts responsibility (“I want to acknowledge our error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers from the outset. This is 100% our responsibility and our error; not the client’s.”), but he doesn’t explain how it happened. As with so many word-of-mouth campaigns, the people behind this pro-Wal-Mart campaign wanted to reap the benefits of an apparently unbought voice without being honest about who was buying it. The Technorati deal Jemima reported on showcases how savvy Edelman can be about managing blogs. Without evidence to the contrary, the inescapable conclusion is that the attempt to deceive was intentional. Could it be any more transparent?