Edelman’s fall from blogosphere grace

Oh dear. No sooner than it seemed that the blogosphere kerfuffle about Edelman PR and the fake Wal-Mart blog was settling down comes another revelation that the PR firm is behind two more fake blogs it has created for its client Wal-Mart but without disclosing the true nature of those blogs nor its relationship.

Following the original kerfuffle, Edelman CEO Richard Edelman outlined steps he says he has put in place to address what clearly is a massive hole in the PR firm’s thinking and behaviour when it comes to employing social media.

At the same time, Steve Rubel gushed about his CEO’s post, saying “[…] we continue to monitor all of the great feedback you gave us this week on PR ethics on social media.”

Supporter though I am of Edelman and all they have been doing globally for more than two years in advancing the social media cause in PR, this latest revelation has seriously damaged the firm’s credibility.

It will likely undermine the PR benefits they have gained for the work they have been doing recently with Technorati in developing local blog search and sharing the fruits of that work such as the two firms jointly presented in London the week before last.

In his post late yesterday, Richard Edelman asks:

[…] If there any other actions that you would advise us to consider, I would welcome them.

He is receiving plenty of advice from many business bloggers.

All I would add is this – Richard, if you have any more skeletons in the closet like these, get them out into the open straightaway.

Edelman PR is now under a very bright spotlight. You absolutely cannot afford to have someone else disclosing any more fake blogs or anything else that calls your firm’s credibility and reputation into question.

It’s all about trust, isn’t it?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Marina making pictures

    Yes I agree with you Edelman is going too far by setting up this fake blogs without giving any notice to the audience. I think readers have the right to know when they are exposed to propaganda.

    Thank you for sharing this story with me !

  2. Amanda Chapel



    “Making matter worse, we are very concerned about the Edelman-Technorati Deal and the subsequent perception of impropriety. In the announcement of the deal, Edelman PR’s CEO Richard Edelman said, “Technorati provides the best analytic tools for tracking over time and in depth what the blogosphere is talking about. Today, Technorati and Edelman announced that Edelman will have an exclusive right to offer Technorati’s analytic tools [in various languages]… continuing into early 2007.” Edelman, whose Me2Revolution “gang” has openly and often expressed sharp opposition and hostility toward Strumpette, is in bed with the very company accounting for our traffic. Again, we’ve been struggling with this problem with Technorati approximately since the Edelman-Technorati arrangement was announced.

    THEREFORE, today we are calling for an independent audit of Technorati and the Edelman-Technorati Deal. It is in the wake of continuing concerns over the operations at Technorati, dramatically compounded by Edelman’s public admissions to the recent scandal for corrupting the blogosphere, that this is now an imperative. We hope the blogosphere joins us in demanding that the audit take place immediately.

  3. neville

    Anyone who reads the stuff you publish on your site, Amanda, can plainly see that you have several larges axes to grind with Edelman (and, indeed, the whole PR industry). So I wonder what your real motives are.

    Still, while I don’t agree with your rhetoric and clamorous wording, it’s an interesting idea that you’re suggesting. Will it fly, though?

    BTW, I substituted the long URL in your comment with the TinyURL you now see and which still connects to the post on your site. The original link you left was so long it messed with the formatting on this blog. Otherwise your comment is as you wrote it.

  4. Dominic Jones

    Neville, you’re such a nice bloke. Your post is by far the most level-headed I’ve read on this topic, yet it’s clear on where you stand.

    Edelman’s problem, if I’m being charitable, is management having too much confidence in its staff’s ability to understand and adapt to the new communication paradigm. Many people in the profession, particularly on the agency side, have done things one way for so long that it was unreasonable for management to expect them to understand the new expectations.

    It also is exceedingly difficult for traditional PR firms to do this stuff. It requires you to say no to the client and to tell the client to do things that they often will not want to do.

    It’s not clear to me if Edelman suggested the fake blogs or if the clients did. If it was the client, then Edelman should have said no, that’s a bad idea. If necessary, they should have resigned the account and moved on. That’s not easy, but it’s something you have to do for the sake of all your other clients.

    However, if the fake blogs were Edelman’s idea, then Wal-Mart should fire them immediately. Other clients who received similar advice should do so as well because we all know it was bad advice.

    As for Amanda, she completely misses the boat on Technorati. It doesn’t need an audit, it needs to be acquired by a company that can make the thing work. I love Technorati and use it all the time, but it’s prone to glitches and entirely unpredictable. Technical stability rather than honesty is the issue there.

    Finally, thanks for referencing my article on the state of podcasting in investor relations on FIR. I got the sense that you were expecting to disagree with it based on past experience, but then didn’t find anything to really disagree with. And getting live comment from IBM was cool.

  5. Pajamas Media

    Edelman imploding?…

    Blogs continue to criticize veteran PR firm Edelman for misusing the Internet by creating so-called “flogs” for Wal-Mart, among others. Says Joho the Blog: “Edelman’s non-transparency about its Wal-Mart programs erode the trust that makes the Blogo…

  6. richard edelman

    Neville, I understand your concerns and would tell you that I am determined that this is the last such revelation of bad practice. We are now conducting an audit of all of our new media programs. We are asking for best practice compliance in every one of our markets around the world. We are getting our me2Revolution team out to our major offices and on teleconference to all offices for an Edelman university class this wednesday and thursday on ethics in the blogosphere. We have to do better. It is too important for our firm and for our industry to allow this initiative to fail. Thanks for your sentiments and keep tabs on our progress.

  7. Basic Thinking Blog » Edelman under fire

    […] Neville Hobson, Edelman’s fall from blogosphere grace: All I would add is this – Richard, if you have any more skeletons in the closet like these, get them out into the open straightaway. Edelman PR is now under a very bright spotlight. You absolutely cannot afford to have someone else disclosing any more fake blogs or anything else that calls your firm’s credibility and reputation into question. […]

  8. james

    I’m no PR expert. Just beginning to see what happened. Still not exactly sure how the fake blogs were green-lighted. This one seems to have crept under the radar within edelman and was certainly not approved or shown to steve rubel. There must be a lot of people deeply embarrassed. Would like to see full disclosure like many have suggested, although i realize the politics of large businesses at this stage will probably not allow for that.


  9. neville

    Thanks for your comment, Richard. I wish you well in fixing this. I really do hope Edelman PR emerges out of this with your reputation and credibility intact. I think the points such as Dominic and James raise ought to be part of the fixing as unless such questions are addressed by you, this won’t go away.

    Dominic, re FIR, your post that I referenced was a good analysis. Yes, some of our past conversation experiences did influence how I initially approached your points – interesting how that came across as you perceived it – but at the end of the day, your overall commentary was spot on. And it was great that Shel was with Chris Barger at that moment in the show in order to get an on-the-spot reaction.

    The power of “citizen journalism”!

  10. Jonathan Trenn

    I agree with thh point James raises when he queries as to whom green lighted these fake blogs. And not only whom, but how it came to that in the first place. It’s about standard practices. Legitimacy. Accountability.

    The fact that now we find three fake blogs coming out of Edelman on behalf of a major client stinks to high heaven. Clearly, it isn’t the mistake of one low-level staffer. While this doesn’t mean it goes all the way to the top, it puts into question Edelman’s business methods.

    I would have expected better.

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