Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Wal-Mart, Edelman & Bloggers. A peek into the Worker Bees Newsletter

I'm just wrapping up my latest Worker Bees Newsletter (which you can sign up for here) and just had to cross-post one of my commentary items to this blog:

In the News: A Blogging "Scandal" that's really a Tempest in a Teapot

This morning's New York Times features a story that stirring up the blogosphere: Wal-Mart has been feeding bloggers information about their company, and some bloggers have been using that information to write blog posts. Actually, that's being kind: some bloggers have been re-posting the Wal-Mart info word for word in blog posts...without attribution. Now, normally the person who doesn't like bloggers cribbing from them without attribution is the originator of said content. But in this case the originator, Wal-Mart, and its PR Agency, Edelman, are happy indeed. Other bloggers, though, are stirring up a blogswarm over the issue.

I'm not exactly pro-Wal-Mart, but I have to agree with Jeff Jarvis that this story is a tempest in a teapot. This is exactly how reporters in the mainstream media get a lot of the information they write about too. Now a good reporter or blogger isn't going to just parrot press release information word for word. And sure, I think those bloggers would have been smart to disclose the source of their information. But Wal-Mart as a company is free to spend their P.R. budget trying to influence the media, whether reporters or bloggers. I send emails to bloggers all the time with information about clients. I don't expect the bloggers to write a post using my exact language. But if they did, I guess I'd think I'd done a particularly good job of providing effective messaging! Last comment: this is not, I repeat, not, the same as when the government spends tax dollars trying to buy off the media. And anyone who wants to hear me rant further on that topic can contact me offline!

Here's one thing I will say: I am honestly a little bit shocked that fairly new Edelman employee and perhaps the most prominent PR blogger, Steve Rubel, as not uttered a word abot this on his blog yet. Even to say he can't comment yet. He is so often a vocal advocate of transparency and responsiveness that I think his silence is the only somewhat scandalous thing about this story!

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