Wal-Mart, Edelman, Listen & Talk

    March 7, 2006

The NYT takes a *very* interesting look at how Edelman is increasingly engaging bloggers on behalf of Wal-Mart:

“Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.”

The story actually digs into some of the tactics and language that Edelman Senior Account Supervisor Marshall Manson is using in his correspondence with certain bloggers:

“Mr. Manson, identifying himself as a “blogger myself” who does “online public affairs for Wal-Mart,” began with a bit of flattery: “Just wanted you to know that your post criticizing Maryland’s Wal-Mart health care bill was noticed here and at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville,” he wrote, referring to the city in Arkansas.

“If you’re interested,” he continued, “I’d like to drop you the occasional update with some newsworthy info about the company and an occasional nugget that you won’t hear about in the M.S.M.” – or mainstream media….”

“The e-mail messages Mr. Manson has sent to bloggers are structured like typical blog postings, with a pungent sentence or two introducing a link to a news article or release.”

The story continues, citing a few examples of where pro-Wal-Mart messages that originated from Manson’s correspondence with certain bloggers resurfaced (sometimes verbatim) without disclosure. These instances of course rekindle the ongoing debate about blogger disclosure practices, credibility and transparency — a theme that’s clearly gaining steam among the business dailies lately.

My two cents: while the NYT seems to jab at a few of the bloggers who actively engage with Manson, from a PR standpoint, the mere fact that the Edelman team is helping to facilitate some level of discussion with ALL of Wal-Mart’s publics, be they big or small, is a smart thing, and something corporate America should embrace and replicate.

Update: Ryan McGrath, the PR Linker, has a great collection of links and excerpts pertaining to this story.

[Hat Tip: Blogcrafter]

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Mike Manuel is the founder of the award winning Media Guerrilla blog. Media Guerrilla is an insiders take on the practice of technology public relations with a focus on the issues, tactics and trends that are specific to the tech industry.

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