Edelman Urged To Overhaul Wal-Mart Flogs
Earlier this month, Edelman was placed on 90-days' probation with the organization, after the public relations firm acknowledged it was behind a series of flogs, or fake blogs, for Wal-Mart: Wal-Marting Across America, Paid Critics and Working Families for Wal-Mart.
Since being outed as the mastermind behind the ostensibly grassroots sites, Edelman has made minor changes to them. Entries that were previously anonymous now carry a first name; clicking on the name links to brief biographies that identify the contributors as Edelman employees who have Wal-Mart as a client, although there is no mention that Edelman is a public relations agency.
"This isn't really full disclosure," says B.L. Ochman, a blogging consultant who has been outspoken online in her criticism of Edelman's behavior. "Unless you're following this thing, or really know the PR world, you would have no idea who Edelman is."
Agency CEO Richard Edelman may also be called to explain his comments in an interview with the IDG News Service, in which he claimed the only mistake his agency had made was that it was "insufficiently transparent about the identity of one of the two bloggers who went on that RV tour."
"If that's really what he thinks, then he just doesn't get it at all," Ochman says. "That's ridiculous."
In a pair of tangents to the ongoing affair, last week, agency head Richard Edelman ducked a scheduled appearance at a panel co-sponsored by his agency in Washington, D.C., "Politics, Democracy & the Internet," when activists from Wal-Mart Watch showed up handing out flyers headlined "The Wal-Mart Flog" and chronicling the firm's involvement in the debacle.
Furthermore, the agency failed to register the URL for Working Families for Wal-Mart, the front organization for Edelman's public relations efforts, which claims to be a client of the PR firm but is staffed by Edelman employees. Last week, the union-backed opposition organization, Wal-Mart Watch, registered the URL and put up its own parody site, which keeps the name but adds a question mark. A similar question mark hangs over Edelman's future in WOMMA.