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huck_finn.jpgPosted by B.L. Ochman. WalMart, the nation’s largest employer, is embroiled in a variety of controversies about its labor and business practices. Along comes modern day Tom Sawyer, aka Marshall Manson, a sr account supervisor at Edelman, who enlists right wing bloggers to whitewash the tarnished image of WalMart. Many conservative bloggers regurgitated emails and press releases Manson fed them right into their blogs. Bob Beller of Crazy Politico’s Rantings blog, sent the Walmart/Edelman flack’s emails to Michael Barbaro, who used them as the basis of a blog-bashing story in the NY Times, “Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign.”
What I find most interesting about the story is that Edelman is trying to get bloggers to spin a story for WalMart in much the same way they have always used mainstream media to try to control messages. This situation suggests that Edelman is not as new-media savvy as it would like bloggers and its clients to believe. There were other ways they could have enlisted bloggers to listen to them that didn’t involve deception and questionable ethics. So much for transparency. It’s clearly another tired illusion.
I have to wonder if this story will give Steve Rubel pause as he starts out in Edelman’s employ. He is strangely silent on his blog, ignoring the story and the blogosphere conversation about Edelman and WalMart’s ethics.

Deep Throat Blogger
Bob Beller of Crazy Politico’s Rantings blog, wrote

“… folks will wonder why I would do that, and “sell out” to the NY Times, a paper I basically loathe, and the answer is pretty easy. Bloggers want to be seen as the new media, and we are, but at the same time there is a lot of existing media out there, also. Both should work together to get correct information out to the public.”

In a statement on its site, campaign director Paul Blank said,

“Borrowing a page from Karl Rove’s playbook, Wal-Mart’s public relations team is trying to create a false sense of support for a flawed business model which is hurting families.
…The American people will not tolerate deception. For example, there is no such group ‘Working Families for Wal-Mart.’ The group is a front, comprised of several paid consultants and business associates and staffed by Wal-Mart’s own public relations firm.
These dirty campaign tricks didn’t work for big tobacco and they won’t work for Wal-Mart.”

Carolita Johnson at NYette says “I can’t figure it out why a blogger would let Walmart crawl into their pants like that. And for free, it seems.”
John McAdams, author of the Marquette Warrior blog, and one of the conservative bloggers on Manson’s list, says:

Wal-Mart is in this, as in supply chain management, ahead of the curve. They are recognizing bloggers are a force that needs to be cultivated and catered to just as corporate PR people (and political activists) have long cultivated and catered to the traditional media.”

And I’m sure that is exactly Edelman’s viewpoint.
Brian Pickerell, of Iowa Voice, another blogger whom Barbaro contacted for his story, says the Times shouldn’t be so quick to condemn bloggers.

“And as for multiple blogs having similar sources, I would like to point out that a majority of news outlets use the Associated Press for their stories. Yes, in most cases they credit the AP for it, BUT on numerous occassions the stories themselves have been edited (info added or removed). If they have the ability to alter the original article so much, what’s to say they haven’t written their own piece based on what was sent to them from the AP, and simply putting it under their name? Hmmm?”

Copyright BL Ochman 2006.