Wal-Marting Across America or RVs parking their blog ethics at the door?

I’m still confused about what seems like a significant overreaction in the blogosphere to Wal Mart’s PR agency Edelman’s decision to sponsor a couple in their RV trip across America. The blog, now called a “fake” by many but not the authors, is WalMartingAcrossAmerica

Onliners, especially bloggers, get more pissed about this type of thing than about, for example, thousands of far, far more significant issues of global significance and ethics, death and destruction and I find that upsetting, intellectually narrow minded, obsessive, and superficial.

So, a big PR firm sponsors a blog that they see will wind up being favorable to Wal Mart? This is surprising? Unethical? If they’d set up the whole thing I’d see it differently, but that does not appear to be the case. They simply were not transparent *enough*, failing to have the bloggers disclose their financial relationship to Wal Mart.

Sure, they deserved to be chastised and called out on this as a breech of transparency, but is this more of a breech than, say, downloading illegal music and videos? Or, for that matter, building entire companies around concepts of illegal downloading? Those guys get cheers and applause and hundred-million dollar paydays.

That said maybe I’m just not reading this right and it was some major ethical breech by Wal Mart/ Edelman.

Here’s my reply to Edelman’s (too thin) apology about all this even as it becomes the top online story by far:

With all due respect this apology seems too thin, and ironically itself sounds like part of the PR-driven rather than the “blog community” approach to the issue which would outline the scoop for everybody and explain how this got so out of hand.

It’s not even clear to me that you seriously defied WOMMA guidelines assuming that things are exactly as described over at the WalMarting Across America blog. Rather it looks like somebody at Edelman saw an excellent and legitimate opportunity and then chose to fund it in a way that turned this into a blog that was too sponsored to retain credibility.

Sheesh – I think I’m articulating your position at greater length than you are?!


22 thoughts on “Wal-Marting Across America or RVs parking their blog ethics at the door?

  1. Richard’s “apology” was terse, unrepentant and remorse-free. It was something he had to do, but at this point it’s the equivalent of inserting one’s finger in the about-to-burst dyke. He deserves zero credit, as he simply had no choice, and if the sky hadn’t been falling there’d have been no mea culpa. To position oneself as the world’s guru on corporate blogging and blog ethics/transparency, and then to dive head-first into this cesspool puts an irreversible stain on Richard Edelman’s and his firm’s reputation and blows to bits any claims the agency might have of being a pioneer in corporate blogging. All the vainglorious pronouncements Edelman has made in the past on transparency and integrity are exposed for what they are – empty phrases, full of sound and fury and signifying less than nothing. Had he really taken a stand in his post and truly sought to explore how and why this was allowed to happen maybe the world would be more forgiving. Sadly, he chose the “holding statement” approach, where you tell as little as possible and hope the world will forget and move on to other things. Shameful.

  2. Hi Richard – I agree there was not enough info in the apology and that it was PR driven rather than sincere contrition, but I don’t agree that the transgression was as bad as most suggest. These were real people blogging real people who would have done this *without* the sponsorship.

    Sure, the connection should have been disclosed but I can’t help but think that people who are ranting about this already hate Wal-Mart. Have you even read the blog? It was good, mild, travel fare.

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