Blogs Benefit Bentonville Behemoth

Edelman is way out in front with the use of blogs for public relations purposes. That’s not news. News is Edelman’s blog-savvy workforce using their skills to help dig one of America’s most battered companies–Wal-Mart–out of a PR hole.
From The New York Times:

Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.
Wal-Mart, long criticized for low wages and its health benefits, began working with bloggers in late 2005 “as part of our overall effort to tell our story,” said Mona Williams, a company spokeswoman.
“As more and more Americans go to the Internet to get information from varied, credible, trusted sources, Wal-Mart is committed to participating in that online conversation,” she said.
Wal-Mart’s blogging initiative is part of a ballooning public relations campaign developed in consultation with Edelman to help Wal-Mart as two groups, Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart, aggressively prod it to change. The groups operate blogs that receive posts from current and former Wal-Mart employees, elected leaders and consumers.
Edelman also helped Wal-Mart develop a political-style war room, staffed by former political operatives, which monitors and responds to the retailer’s critics, and helped create Working Families for Wal-Mart, a new group that is trying to build support for the company in cities across the country.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I love Edelman but hate Wal-Mart. This is a Sophie’s Choice business we’re in.
    Speaking of which, if I were Sophie, I’d probably just give both kids up for adoption. Who needs tweens when you have focus groups?

  2. I would love to know which blogs are publishing this stuff. It seems like to me that anything pro-WalMart that you would read on a blog would seem so “planted” that the credibility of the blogger would be gone pretty soon and you’d be back to zero.

  3. Not so much pro-wal-mart as anti-bullshit is the following comment: You can’t fault Wal-Mart for exposing the faults of our capitalist system. That’s what companies do. It’s all about profits, growth, and shareholder value – no matter which company you work for. The bigger the company, the more grotesque the practices appear, but it’s the same practices.

  4. For a look at a sample Wal-Mart email to bloggers, see Economist’s View.
    Here’s a snippet:
    “It’s always a challenge when opponents organize to attack corporations. The companies always seems to have one arm tied behind their backs when they try to respond, so it’s nice to see folks like you defending them when it’s the right thing to do.
    If you’re interested, I’d like to drop you the occasional update with some newsworthy info about the company. Let me know.”

  5. Let’s begin by admitting it. Blogs are a million false rumors waiting to happen. They’re a wonderful way to advertise, but a horrendous source for facts. Is it surprising bloggers have been secretly co-opted by corporations? What an ideal way to say whatever you want without fear of lawsuits or regulartory fines.
    Any corporation worth half it’s salt is scouring blogs to learn how they look and sound. Think of it this way. If a Hollywood screenwriter can write a believable film conversation, corporate-sponsored scribes can post a believable blog. From working inside the business, I can tell you – they’re counting on our trust that bloggers are just folks like you and me.
    Conventional media remainds the best bet when it comes to hearing the truth. Clients can’t make misleading claims without threat of punishment. Nothing like that exists for the blogger.
    A good rule of thumb? Don’t believe blogs any more than you would the most shallow, shillish informercial at 2 a.m. At least you know who’s sponsoring the message.