Update: Richard Edelman responds here (90 96 comments) and then here. Steve Rubel here (over 50 comments).

I’m a huge fan of the folks at Edelman, particularly Steve Rubel and Phil Gomes and Guillaume du Gardier in Paris. So I have no idea what’s up with Edelman’s non-response to the outing of the Wal-Marting Across America blog as a paid-for publicity stunt.

Definition of flogging

Flogging refers to a new blog-ism: fake blogging – as coined used by MediaPost reporter Tom Siebert in his article: Pro-Wal-Mart Travel Blog Screeches to a Halt. Full disclosure: Tom interviewed me and quotes me in the article. He also quoted me in his follow-up article (see below).

[Correction: flog was coined by Matthew Oliphant.] 

I’m inclined to think that a lot of wires got crossed on this one.

About ten months ago Wal-Mart retained Edelman to work on blogger relations with them to counter the stream of negative press the company is getting. One of the things Edelman did was suggest that Wal-Mart create Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFFWM). Hard to believe that the Edelman team would then give Wal-Mart such bad advice, as in:

Here’s how to behave in the corporate blogosphere: fake it

I.e. get WFFWM to pay a photographer (Jim) and a freelance writer (Laura) to pretend they just happen to be driving across America in an RV. Oh and they just happen to park each night in the RV-friendly Wal-Mart parking lots. Oh and they just happen to photograph and interview lots of happy Wal-Mart employees. Oh and then they post this happy chronicle to the Wal-Marting Across America blog.

(All the entries have now been removed except the final semi-explanatory one by Laura.)

Oops – that didn’t work

Turns out “Jim” is Washington Post photographer James Thresher (who’s now in deep sushi with Wash Post executive editor Len Downie). His girlfriend “Laura” is Laura St. Claire (whose brother happens to be an Edelman employee).

Steve Rubel, are you listening?

So far there’s no comment on this corporate blogging snafu (don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a fiasco) on Richard Edelman’s CEO blog, nor on Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion.

Another way Edelman could have handled this

As I told the MediaPost’s Tom Siebert:

“What would they lose to have said, ‘we’re sending two people around
the country to talk to people at Wal-Mart,'” says corporate blogging
consultant Debbie Weil, author of “The Corporate Blogging Book.” “It
could have even been funny–they could have made it self-deprecating,
really loosened up and it would have been so much more effective as a
PR strategy. Instead, they went with that whole Madison Avenue lie that
everything is perfect, which people can’t stand.”

MediaPost (Oct. 13, 2006)

Useful Links

Wal-Mart’s Jim and Laura: The Real Story (Business Week – Oct. 8, 2006)

WashPost Photog’s Wal-Mart Trip Violates Paper’s Policy (Editor & Publisher – Oct. 11, 2006)

WaPo Photog To Repay Wal-Mart Group for Blog Expenses (MediaPost – Oct. 13, 2006)

Blogs, splogs & flogs: edelman and the wal-mart fiasco
(bizhack – Oct. 12, 2006)

PR bloggers respond to Wal-Mart / Edelman controversy (from Wal-Mart Watch)

Defending and Defining the Blog Culture (Toby Bloomberg – Oct. 13, 2006)

Wal-Mart: On the Importance of Being Ernest (Kami Huyse – Oct. 13, 2006)