Seems like each month, someone in the blogosphere is selected for an ass-kicking in a thousand different spots. This month's joint recipients are Wal-Mart and Edelman, the PR agency hired to restore the less-than-stellar image of the retailing giant.
In the recent past, Wal-Mart has taken way more than its share of hits from bloggers. So it made sense for the client and agency to embrace an effort called Walmarting Across America.
A couple, Laura and Jim, drove an RV from Las Vegas to Georgia. Along the way, they parked overnight in Wal-Mart lots, interviewed shiny and happy Wal-Mart employees, and chronicled their adventure in a blog, walmartingacrossamerica.com.
When bloggers realized that Laura and Jim were a freelance writer and photographer sponsored by Working Families for Wal-Mart, an organization started by Edelman, the shit hit the proverbial fan (see Adpulp, Blog Business Summit, Blogwrite for CEOs, et al). Accusations of flogging (fake blogging), even began to fly.
Were the attacks fair? Consider this: Laura and Jim are a real couple who've been living together for years and have three kids between them. They approached Working Families for Wal-Mart with the idea -- not the other way around. Working Families plastered a conspicuous sign on the RV. And all Wal-Mart employee comments were apparently real.
Could Wal-Mart and Edelman have pulled this off without using ringers like Laura and Jim? I don't think so. Did they make any mistakes? Of course they did (we all do) -- and I imagine Wal-Mart and Edelman staffers are kicking themselves right now.
The Edelman people are swing-for-the-fences publicists. At least they had the cajones to move ahead with a big idea.