There’s a must-read article in today’s NYTimes on the issue of blogger relations: Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in PR Campaign. The article talks about Edelman PR’s efforts to feed tidbits to a group of bloggers to generate positive coverage for the corporation (which is being criticized by pro-union activists for paying low wages and not offering health benefits).
Lee Odden posted to Business Blog Consulting with an entry titled: Wal-Mart Blog PR Backfires. I don’t think that’s quite accurate. In fact, the blogger campaign seems to be working quite nicely. And I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with it. I responded with this comment (my words are in italics):
The NYTimes brings up lots of issues to ponder:
– Are some citizen journalists – aka bloggers – unaware of
journalistic conventions like quoting, attributing sources, checking
facts, etc.? Seems likely to me. (Although I don’t know enough about
this particular case to make that judgment.) [Read Jeff Jarvis’s helpful blog entry, in reponse to the Times story, with advice for bloggers. Read Dan Gillmor on Bloggers and Disclosure.]
– Should Edelman be engaging in this kind of blogger relations?
Hmmm… why not. [Read Richard Edelman’s blog entry commenting on the Times piece and explaining more about Edelman’s blogger relations practice.] The bloggers who are being approached need to be super
savvy about the information they’re being fed. In other words, they
need to act more like mainstream journalists and ask lots more
Fascinating to read is the email exchange between Edelman account exec Marshall Manson (who clearly identifies himself as being with Edelman, including his phone number) and blogger Rob Port of SayAnythingBlog. You can download it as a PDF here. Pay close attention. You’ll see that “flattery will get you everywhere” is a great technique.
Writes Edelman’s Manson in the email exchange: “Just wanted you [Rob Port] to know that your post taking notice of “Why Wal-Mart Works” was noticed here and at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville.” He then proceeds to invite Port to Wal-Mart’s 2nd Annual Media Conference on April 18-19.
In fact, the back story to this NYTimes story is more interesting than the article. Read Bob Crazy Politico’s Rantings Beller’s account of his interview here and here with the Times – “a paper I basically loathe,” he writes.