Picked up from Shel Holtz this morning that WalMart was running a fake blog about an average American couple traveling across the country in an RV spending each night in a WalMart parking lot.

The blog would generate great posts about the stores, their employees (“going the extra mile”) and their products (the nation’s largest supplier of organic milk”). Too bad the couple were part of promotional tactic engineered by Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), an organization that appears to have been launched by Wal-Mart’s public relations firm, Edelman.

Per a MediaPost Story, “WFWM paid for the RV and all travel expenses, rerouted the trip’s original plan, and plastered a logo on the RV’s side. Although the blog featured a link to WFWM, it did not identify the organization as a paid sponsor.” A woman answering the phone for WFWM when MediaPost called said she could not be quoted but identified herself as an employee of Edelman.

Most shocking is Edelman, zealous advocates for blogging and corporate transparency, being at the heart of this fake blog. Heck, Steve Rubel, who I have the utmost respect for, serves as senior vice president in Edelman’s me2revolution practice.

And even after the blogosphere is abuzz with the story and BusinessWeek exposing the blog as a promotional tactic, nothing from Steve or Edelman. Strange.

All we have is the ‘fake blog‘ being edited and cleaned up to delete previous entries. Even includes an ‘explanation’ of how this all came about. If the explanation were sincere, why delete the earlier posts that display in a cached version of the blog?

Walmart got some bad ‘blog press’ when it enlisted Edelman to feed content to bloggers. Steve Rubel, who had just started at Edleman that week, acknowledged the situation as soon as he could.

While as a brand new Edelman employee I did not have first-hand knowledge of the Wal-Mart account team’s practices here, I have long believed that companies through their PR reps should build relationships with bloggers. As we do, our actions will inevitably bubble up to the surface as they did yesterday. PR professionals now live in glass houses. This puts it incumbent upon us to adhere to the unwritten rules of the blogosphere – to the letter. It also means that as this new form of common law shifts, so must we.

The ‘unwritten rules of the blogosphere’ have been broken here. Steve’s always been transparent about things. I look forward to his take.

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  • I’m not surprised, Kevin. I have to say that it’s DARN hard for PR firms to rethink their worldview to match the new reality of social networks and social media. Edelman talks the talk, but when it comes down to it…
    Ironically, if the blog would have talked about *more* than just Walmarts, complained about stupid product stocking decisions, taken a snapshot of a shopping cart pile-up in the parking lot, and so on, it might have been more credible too.
    Nonetheless, this is identical to the brouhaha about PayPerPost and related too, isn’t it? The issue isn’t what you do, it’s whether you DISCLOSE what you’re doing. Rubel, of all people, should know that by now, but perhaps he wasn’t involved?

  • You’re right about disclosure being the key Dave.
    A blog about visiting WalMart stores like other RV travelers who stay in WalMart parking lots is okay even if orchestrated by Edelman. In fact it would be a great use of a blog.
    But it’s the not telling folks who instigated the blog that sticks in my craw.

  • This is a great post, I didn’t know that even big corporations are making fake blogs. I think we all need to start taking some action for completely fake, spam-type blogs, it makes blogs look bad for those of us who are bringing the knowledge to people who’ve never heard of a blog. Here’s a pretty good site to a list of places you can contact and take action against truly fake blogs: http://www.peoplesearchnews.com/technology/what-you-can-do-to-stop-fake-blogs/

  • Sharon

    On July 2nd My family & I
    go to exchange cables for my husbands Xbox at wallmart.
    We had bought them in the US, they didnt work.
    My husband headed straight to the cust. serv. desk cables in hand, my sister & I behind heading to the electronics department, we watch as the lady stickered his box of cables. I find new cables,head over to the cust serv, the lady is talking to my husband, he says new cables are the wrong ones-he goes to the electronic dept, while I’m @ Cust Serv to find cables are not their product.We had mistaken them for something else we bought. I appologize to the lady tell her im going to tell my husband I intercept him, – I tell him to run across the parking lot to the EB games, I will meet him there as I had to find my sister. He grabs our box of cables,leaves. I find my sister we’re 45 feet behind my husband, he exits, I see a tall man drop his stuff and fly out the door – I look at my sister say he must think Jay (my husband) had taken that box. I get outside and sure enough, 40 feet away I see my husband being led by the arm by this guy, instantly i say ‘let him go, he never did anything – look at the box, it has a sticker’ – he eventually
    lets us go.. he said he didnt see the sticker we walk through the parking lot over to EB – buy our cables get in my SUV head out of the parking lot. We pass by the front entrance to wallmart at this point and see the same security guy looking for someone. Instantly I get a feeling that it’s for us – Next my sister says ‘Sharon, hes writing down your plate and is now calling someone.’I stop, head towards him to hear “THE COPS ARE ON THEIR WAY FOR YOU’ pointing at me my sister walks up, says we didnt take anything – he tells her to “SHUT UP’he grabs hold of my husband again, tells us that we have no proof, that we stole these cables and that we could get a sticker anywhere this is in front of the store, on the sidewalk im telling him that we didnt take anything, he tells me to SHUT UP several times, as hes trying to make my husband say that we took something. I throw the cable box on the ground, tell him to go and scan it in his system as it isnt even a wallmart product. he then tells me to shut up again – tells me that it is and that my husband stole it and that he didnt see him come through the doors with the product, I tell him to check his security cameras because I promise that we didnt take them. The manager Phil for the wallmart comes out , listens to whats going on, the undercover security guard still yelling at me telling us that we have no proof and that we did in fact steal this and that the cops were coming – I told him to let them, then said you know what? I actually have proof, I ran to my car, found our receipts that we had for when we crossed the boarder sunday night. I showed him the reciept and said do you understand we are not thieves, we dont steal, that we outright paid for this I said all you kept telling me to do was the shut up, thats when he denied it, I gave him a sharp look he said well maybe twice – the manager had to send him inside because he was being unruly – the manager then explained that he was very sorry, they take incidents like this very sorry – I explained that this was profiling and that we are mortified with embarassment and he advised me to lodge a complaint with head office and that he too would lodge a complaint and that they would be talking to his (the undercover security) boss and would get it resolved – he couldnt give the undercover security guys name – as it was against policy he asked for contact info and I handed him my business card.I asked – if I leave will the cops stop me, and he says no im sure that everything is fine – I still left, shaking uncontrollably – my husband, my sister and I
    completely shaken up – extremely embarassed, stressed out and warn out – people were yelling in the parking lot ‘punch him it was a scene out of a bad movie and we were the ones there. I couldnt shake what happened and still cant –
    I feel that we were completely discriminated upon, whether it be that we were young – my husband being young, and and being african american? We were completely violated of our rights, he treated us like trash, talked down to us and made us feel like we were criminals in front of huge amounts of people. I emailed through wallmarts website they call the next day from Lloyd who is the store manager – he says the same thing as Phil, but that the President of Wallmart got my email & forwarded it to him. He mentioned that there is no resolution till someone gets off holidays -no call yet

  • Wallmart does it again – please pass this one.
    I’m disgusted to read that Wallmart are going to bleed this woman dry, she gave them loyalty, she gave her country her Son and Wallmart are giving her hell.
    I am going to ask as many people as possible to let Wallmart know this is not how to treat people.
    There are other places to shop and other places to work.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/03/25/walmart.insurance.battle/index.html?iref=mpstoryview asking them to boycott your stores, and since many of my clients are fund managers and brokers they will also reach their own decisions.
    There are special circumstances here, I have personally shopped at probably 50 of your stores accross america, you so some good things and generally I’ve always thought you were socially aware.
    Small print has no place in cases like this.
    Please reconsider your positon and the message you are sending to your staff, your customers, and your service people.
    You will have to spend a lot more to repair your reputation than you would if you pay this woman.
    Yours sincerely
    Paul King

  • Wallmart does it again – please pass this one.
    I’m disgusted to read that Wallmart are going to bleed this woman dry, she gave them loyalty, she gave her country her Son and Wallmart are giving her hell.
    I am going to ask as many people as possible to let Wallmart know this is not how to treat people.
    There are other places to shop and other places to work.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/03/25/walmart.insurance.battle/index.html?iref=mpstoryview asking them to boycott your stores, and since many of my clients are fund managers and brokers they will also reach their own decisions.
    There are special circumstances here, I have personally shopped at probably 50 of your stores accross america, you so some good things and generally I’ve always thought you were socially aware.
    Small print has no place in cases like this.
    Please reconsider your positon and the message you are sending to your staff, your customers, and your service people.
    You will have to spend a lot more to repair your reputation than you would if you pay this woman.
    Yours sincerely
    Paul King