Questionable judgment by Edelman in fake blog fiasco

Being largely offline for much of this week (and last) has been a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, I’ve been able to devote most of my attention to family-related things to do with my move to the UK last week. On the other hand, I’ve now got a ton of email to deal with and catch up with some of the interesting happenings that go on whether you’re online or not.

One such is a hardly-credible story involving Edelman and Wal-Mart that, as my podcasting partner Shel Holtz noted, is all about pulling wool:

[…] A blog ostensibly authored by a couple traveling across America in their RV and spending nights parked in WalMart parking lots turned out to be a fake blog, the brainchild of WalMart’s PR counselors at Edelman. While fake blogs (and other fake social media) are nothing new, it’s dismaying to see it emerge from Edelman, which has some of the smarter new-media people on its staff (Phil Gomes, Michael Wiley, Steve Rubel and more), and which touts itself as the PR firm that truly gets social media.
This is the third time (as Todd Defren noted in his post) that Edelman has botched the whole social media thing on WalMart’s behalf.

I shook my head in dismay when reading the accounts and opinions on many other blogs. Was this really Edelman involved in something stupid like this? Yes it was.

Read the detail in this MediaPost story, which is what many bloggers are referencing.

What brought this story to my immediate attention was a post earlier today by Hugh Fraser in which he noted:

[…] Interesting to hear the take on this in the For Imediate Release Podcast. It gives an impression of the confusion this debacle has sowed in the PR World. Presenter Shel Holtz rightly expresses sorrow and regret that Edelman should cock-up like this, then co-presenter Neville Hobson reports on how nice it was to meet Richard Edelman in London last week. Presumably Neville recorded his piece before this news broke.

The episode Hugh refers to was recorded yesterday, one of the shows where Shel and I weren’t live together. It was also one of the very few where neither Shel nor I really knew ahead of time what each of us would be talking about.

So when I listened to the completed show this morning, there was Shel’s Edelman critique a bit before my piece about the Edelman/Technorati London meeting. I recorded my contribution for the show on Wednesday.

Whoops, I thought – a bit of an odd juxtaposition of different commentary about Edelman in the same podcast!

That aside, the key issue here is what people are saying – in essence, the PR counsellors at Edelman have acted with extremely poor judgment in dressing up something for what it’s not.

This opacity is the complete antithesis of what social media is about and what Edelman have been championing for the past two years. Because they are widely regarded in the profession as the PR champions for social media, this comes as a bitter pill to swallow.

A very disappointing development. Not the first time with opacity, though.

So, Edelman, what do you say?