Wal-Mart's Online PR Firm Roasted for Fabricating "Blogs"

In a move reminiscent of the pseudo-community groups that Wal-Mart created in Rosemead, Wal-Mart's PR company, Edelman, apologized for creating two fake pro-Wal-Mart blogs.  Blogs (like this one) are supposed to be genuine journalism or opinion writing by people who are (somewhat) independent of external influences.  It lets everyone be an op-ed columnist.

Edelman sponsored a pair of blogs that were pro-Wal-Mart, but were pretending to be genuine people who supported Wal-Mart for sincere, personal reasons.  They were lying.  Here's the Media Post take on it:

A pro-Wal-Mart blog called "Wal-Marting Across America," ostensibly launched by a pair of average Americans chronicling their cross-country travels in an RV and lodging in Wal-Mart parking lots, has been reduced to a farewell entry. One of its two contributors was revealed to be Jim Thresher, a staff photographer for The Washington Post.

The blog, launched Sept. 27, was profiled in this week's issue of BusinessWeek, which exposed the site as a promotional tactic engineered by Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), an organization launched by Wal-Mart's public relations firm Edelman. 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. 

Of course, everyone expects this to some degree.  Companies tend to make up stories about themselves to make their company history seem nicer than it really was.

I think it's jarring to the blog writers, when the corporate juggernauts take on the appearance of something genuine and "from the people."  It happens over and over.  I have been told that "hippies" were really world-changers, but, by the time I heard of them, they were a joke.  I know kids today probably think of punk the same way.  Same for hip-hop.  People are always looking for something "genuine" when they're saturated in our demographically-targeted consumer reality.

What's interesting about this fake grassroots blog that Wal-Mart's agency concocted is that Wal-Mart has a lot of customers, but none of them care enough to do anything for Wal-Mart except to shop at Wal-Mart.  The support network is paid-for by Wal-Mart.

What's interesting is that the main criticism that Wal-Mart's pseudo-grassroots group makes is that the critics are paid.  The fake group Working Families for Wal-Mart went as far as to create a site called "paidcritics.com" where they report on the critics of Wal-Mart, accusing critics of paying for protesters.  Amazing.  It's like a child who steals a cookie from the jar, and then accuses someone else of stealing the cookie.

The critics are going out on a limb by attacking Wal-Mart.  It's the biggest corporation in the world.  Their criticism is simple: they are the vanguard of a revolution in globalization that's lowering wages for people in manufacturing in the US; their size is a threat to local government independence (as we've seen in Rosemead); their extremely regressive pay scales are going to turn retail-sector jobs into dead-end jobs.

I doubt if even Wal-Mart would refute that this has happened.  If anything, they celebrate it, but put it in different terms: lower prices, improved "standard of living" for Americans, and increasing the tax base with sales taxes.  Those goodies didn't come for free.  They were paid for with lower wages, smaller raises, and sold-out politicians.  That's why they resort to attacking the critic, rather than addressing the criticism.