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Oct16
Wal-Mart Corporate Blogging Mess: Lessons Learned
I recently reviewed Wal-Mart's corporate blogging efforts and was summarily dismayed by what I found (and didn't find).

And now this.

Wal-Marting Across America, a corporate blog that PR firm Edelman managed for Wal-Mart, failed to clarify that its bloggers were being paid by a pro-Wal-Mart organization called Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), which Edelman had previously launched.

Stinky.

At that blog, "Laura" writes: "[W]e’re being attacked. Why? Because we dared to write positive things about Wal-Mart." ... And because you dared to do so while giving the impression that it only because you happened to like Wal-Mart, not because an organization whose purpose is to promote Wal-Mart paid you to write the blog.

At least, as Li Evans discusses, Edelman has made efforts to apologize.  That's a good start.

Echoing Jason Lee Miller: "Rule #1 for corporate blogging: Be authentic. Don't lie."  Failing to tell enough truth to your readers is a form of lying.

Echoing JD: "In online conversation, it's strong protection to disclose your identity and affiliations. [...] [R]eaders need to stay skeptical."

Echoing Scoble: "If you don’t disclose you’re being paid to blog, you’re gonna create a mess."

Shel Holtz teaches that we can often learn what's going on by who's not talking about it.

Scott Karp reminds us to be wary of companies that attempt to "control the conversation by manufacturing it."

Marshall Sponder decries corporate efforts to deceptively "create a conversation and a point of view that's fictitious."

Hand Scooping Fresh Brown DirtDear corporate blog reader: Read every blog carefully.  Things are not always as they seem.  Some try gaming the blogosphere and get caught.  Others actually get away with it.  Learn to sift the gems from the dirt.

What did you learn from this mess?

8 Comments/Trackbacks




I'm getting really snarky these days but I feel it's warranted when I see the corporate world using blogs for the wrong purposes (as I define them). I call this "Business Blogs***" and I wrote a post on it. Blogs were meant to be used so that we could actually see the real voice of a company, or CEO. Check out Mark Cuban's blog for a good example of telling things as it is. Unfotunately it looks like this is where blogs are going to go and they'll be another tool that will be used for misinformation.

Thanks for the comment, Chad. I wouldn't call it snark - I'd call it justifiable indignation. We don't deserve this kind of shabby treatment as readers, consumers and citizens of the world.

One thing I hope to help others learn is that there are actually a LOT of corporate blogs that are just as stinky, if not more stinky, than this putrid Wal-Mart effort we've lambasted here.

Guys, I hate to disagree here, but it seems to me the response to this "scandal" is overblown. It's not like Edelman hired a couple of actors to pretend to be Joe and Jane RVer. They agreed to sponsor a trip by a couple who was already planning a vacation, and didn't go far enough to disclose that. (Aside from that big "Working Families for Wal-Mart" logo on the side of the RV and the press release issued by WFfWM in September.)

Statements like this -- "Blogs were meant to be used so that we could actually see the real voice of a company, or CEO." -- seem a little over the top to me. Who says how blogs were meant to be used? Isn't that a little like saying, "Books were meant to convey factual information, and anyone who uses them to convey fictional stories is misusing them."?

David, it is overblown - there is a level of exaggeration, you're right. But the response is still correct in nature, if not necessarily in proportion, I think.

I agree that Chad's statement here is idealistic - and I tend to agree with him in terms of what that ideal should be. I think Chad would probably add, though, that blogs are certainly not any more good than they are evil in their innate form.

Thanks for adding your perspective here - you're right in reminding us all to keep level heads. I've personally been at the receiving end of overblown criticism recently, and I know how easily tempers can flare and storms can erupt, even if they are somewhat limited to echo-chambery teacups.

I'll do my best to correct any misinformation I might have in my post above and to update on this situation as it develops.

The real question for companies is: do more people side with Chad or with David? Because if people (in contrast to "just" bloggers) feel deceived by this it hardly matters whether it can be excused under the circumstances.

Have a look at "Life at Wal-Mart" (http://www.walmartfacts.com/lifeatwalmart/) and see who posts there and who allegedly writes the posts. Some people will believe that "Jim B., Human Resources Manager, Wichita, Kan." actually wrote that blog about what a great company WM is, but others might not. Blogs are only as trustworthy as those who write them. On the web, where we're basically all strangers, one needs to work especially hard to earn that trust.

Very true.

Here's the great things about blogs - whether you agree with me or not Walmart is facing somer harsh words these days becuase of these fake blogs and guess who is spreading the word? it starts with a b - yes bloggers! Now it's hit the mainstream and Walmart is really getting an earlful. Yes, I am being idealistic but I feel blogs are best when they help you really get a feel for an organization and if it's all a bunch of BS and you haven't clearly indicated this, you better watch out!

Great point, Chad!

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