Wal Mart Takes the Blogging Low Road


A bit slow on this story, but Walmart's social network site went down in flames. Trying to figure out the web (while still remaining as sleezy as possible) Walmart hired Edelman to help create a fake blog called Wal-Marting Across America. Blog transparency evangelist Steve Rubel works for Edelman, so he should post his take soon.



I might be missing something but the blog (from the screenshots on wallmart watch) had a big 'sponsored by working families for walmart' on it from the beginning and the RV had a big walmart sign on it (don't know if that had a pic on the blog but that was from when they picked it up) so call it a crap idea, misguided, poor social engineering or whatever but all I see is a biased account of a road trip. Its not fake, there's no attempt at concealment, its just crap.

True I don't have any personal conception of just how evil walmart actually is, but I'm not sure that they're doing anything different from thousands of other websites who setup a blog to say nice things about a company and don't write in unstylesheeted H1 at the top "DISCLAIMER; THIS BLOG IS BIASED AND WE'RE GETTING MONEY FROM PEOPLE FOR SAYING IT - PLEASE DON'T IGNORE THE BIG 'SPONSORED BY' SIGN TO THE RIGHT - AND BY THE WAY HAMMERS MAY BE HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED"

With revenues exceeding that of many major nations....

Wal-Mart with Revenues exceeding some mid sized first world major nations they would have a solid internet strategy... something other than blogspam...

Reputation Management

In my talks I use Walmart as the primary example of failure to manage reputation. No doubt they buy the cheapest web marketing they can find, and they get exactly what they pay for.

why is it spam?

its a blog. It has a bias sure, but that doesn't make it spam. Its a couple of eccentrics writing a blog who happen to be getting sponsored to do so. They disclose thats what they're doing. I'm not defending their sanity but you only have to take a quick look at the recent posts on blogger to be assued that sanity is not a requirement for blogging.

You may as well call Matts blog spam because its sponsored by Google (being allowed to use work resources to create posts is sponsorship).

Not Spam

Just Edelman produced propaganda. And contrary to jehochman's beliefs, I would imagine it did not come cheap.

Definitely not the most transparent of blogs, but would you truly expect otherwise?

Ad Agency

In my talks I use Walmart as the primary example of failure to manage reputation. No doubt they buy the cheapest web marketing they can find, and they get exactly what they pay for.

Full Story

People really shouldn't hate

People really shouldn't hate on Walmart. While they pay low wages, no one is forcing them to work there.

The net result of the lowest prices for consumer goods (like Walmart Provides) is an increase in real disposable income for the poor. When you can buy things for cheap, it benefits poor families the most. Walmart is by far a Net benefit to Americans and they give more to charity every year than any other corporation in the world.

More than $245 million to charity last year alone.

Swing and a miss on this one Aaron.

>>People really shouldn't

>>People really shouldn't hate on Walmart.

you know what they say....the only people that complain about walmart are those who can afford not to shop there.

SEOBlackhat says:

SEOBlackhat says:

People really shouldn't hate on Walmart. While they pay low wages, no one is forcing them to work there.

Go interview some of those you say had choices of where to work, and you've got some learnin' coming your way. The forces that do indeed force them to work there are far more complex than "somebody pointing a gun at their heads", and involve more than the workers themselves (their towns, their counties, their banks, their hospitals, etc).

The people keeping the profits are among the smartest in the world. It might take some study to understand how they do it.


take a quick look at the recent posts on blogger to be assued that sanity is not a requirement for blogging.

Or grayhat news... ;)

Swing and a miss on this one

Swing and a miss on this one Aaron.

And yer rong. Rong with an R.

FYI...So, if they pay wages that are below the poverty line, and have a large portion of their employees on welfare, essentially tax payers are subsidizing the profits Wal Mart makes from those cheap wages.

Employees on average take home pay of under $250 a week. The salary for full-time employees (called "associates") is $6 to $7.50 an hour for 28-40 hours a week, which is typical in the discount retail industry. This pay scale places employees with families below the poverty line, with the majority of employees' children qualifying for free lunch at school. When closely examined, this amounts to a form of corporate welfare, as the taxpayer subsidizes the low salaries. One-third are part-time employees - limited to less than 28 hours of work per week - and are not eligible for benefits.

And then there is the whole issue of hiring illegal immigrants.

Also take a look at some of the third world sweatshops that are part of the Wal Mart flag carrying brand.

a good flick to check out: http://www.walmartmovie.com/

Not the first time Edelman / Walmart has stepped in it

Whoever signed off on this on behalf of Walmart would lose an IQ contest to a wildebeest. Pay a bunch of money, get trivial amounts of attention on the web, get nailed in all the mass media when you get busted for being deceptive. Someone ought to get fired.

This is the second time in a month Walmart got put in a negative light based on trying to manipulate the blogosphere. A blog called the Consumerist released that they had met Walmart / Edelman blog guru Mike Krempansky in a bar and he had asked them "What can we do to get you to stop writing about our companies?" They took that as a bribe offer, which strikes me as a stretch, but I wasn't there. The story comes out, Krempansky acknowledges the meeting, but floats as his defense that it was all supposed to be kept secret. It didn't get the coverage this got, but it was another exercise in bad judgment that netted Walmart about ten times the negative publicity that they would have gotten had they done nothing.


I still don't get the problem?

>>Pay a bunch of money, get trivial amounts of attention on the web, get nailed in all the mass media when you get busted for being deceptive.

pay a bunch of money - yep true, it doesn't sound like it was cheap

get trivial amounts of attention on the web - presumably that was the plan - looks like they were indulging in a little reputation management to me. Bloody hell if I ran Walmart I'd be trying to do some too.

get nailed.... busted for being deceptive - once again I didn't see the blog from the beginning but on what I can see here I absolutely cannot understand why its deceptive? Of course some people may have believed it independent despite the sodding big sponsored by notice on it, but those are the same people who superglue their eyelids together or don't understand coffee is hot. I don't see why anyone, even Walmat, should be forced to run their PR based on the fact some people are stupid - that'd be the end of advertorials, those half hour ads on american TV for fitness equipment and every product placement campaign in the world.

OK many may consider that a good thing.

Last time we had this discussion here (paid blogging) we were attacking people who didn't provide dislosure. Even then I was somewhat dubious that that was fair. Now possibly the two bloggers (note its their responsibility not Walmarts - my clients do not announce publically that anything I write about them may be biased its up to me to be honest about it) did not disclose their sponsor until they were 'caught' - in which case boo hiss, but everything I've seen so far indicates they did. And if not they're both grown ups with responsible jobs. They weren't corrupted by Walmart nor was their pet poodle abducted and held at knifepoint. Why should Walmart not pay people money to say nice things about them? its a perfectly valid marketing technique which is endorsed by every celebrity who ever did an ad spot and nearly every one of us at some point or another I'd bet.

Walmart have not (in this case) been dishonest afaik. They haven't denied it, they advertised the sponsorship on the RV and when asked they told. Why are we having a go at them?

All PR is run on the assumption we are stupid

And this was no exception.

From the Business Week story:
"While there is a Working Families banner on the Web site, nowhere does it mention that Wal-Mart has paid for the flight, the RV, the gas, and the blog entries."

They pretended, in short, to be average joes who just happened to keep running into folks who just love working for Walmart, with no real way for the readers to know it was all bought and paid for mendacity.

The "astroturf" grass roots groups sponsored and run by PR firms, and the fake bloggers on the PR payroll, are particularly pernicious developments in the PR world. It's one thing to put your side of a story out; it's quite another to be deceptive about who it is who is putting the story out. The only thing that will stop it is outrage and backlash against the brands that get caught doing it.

what do you understand

by the term 'sponsored by' ?


spon┬Ěsor (sp?n's?r) pronunciation

1. One who assumes responsibility for another person or a group during a period of instruction, apprenticeship, or probation.
2. One who vouches for the suitability of a candidate for admission.
3. A legislator who proposes and urges adoption of a bill.
4. One who presents a candidate for baptism or confirmation; a godparent.
5. One that finances a project or an event carried out by another person or group, especially a business enterprise that pays for radio or television programming in return for advertising time.

to me, when I see 'sponsored by' above a big banner, I assume that at least one of the above definitions apply.

So are we complaining because Walmart didn't assume people are stupid this time? You just cant win in PR can you?

(NB; I personally don't like campaigns like this and any blogs I do are much more clearly done as employees/owners talking about the company, but I still think anyone who considers a sodding big sponsored by banner to be deceptive blogging is pandering waaaaaay too much to the 'lowest common denominator' school of thinking)

To an extent, it doesn't

To an extent, it doesn't matter what happened any more; the perception has been created that Wal-Mart were being deceptive, whether the objective facts bear that perception out or not, so they lose.

Edelman are / were the PR agency responsible, so they lose too. There's the tang of "I told you this was a bad idea" in the background here. It's interesting that the apology posts are both VERY short, and carefully worded. Looks like they've fallen on their swords for a big fat bonus to me

more news:

more news:

PR firm Edelman, which after a fake-blog scandal last week promised to be more open in its dealings, on Thursday admitted it is behind two other fake blogs created for client Wal-Mart.

One blog appears is on the site of Working Families for Wal-Mart, the "astroturf" advocacy group formed by Edelman last December, writes MediaPost. More intriguingly, however, the second fake blog is on WFWM subsidiary site Paid Critics - which is devoted to "exposing" links between unions and other vested interests that are supposedly "smearing Wal-Mart."

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