This week has seen the largest independent PR firm, Edelman, raked over the coals for producing a fake blog on behalf of client, Wal-Mart. Subsequently two further fake blogs have come to light generated by Edelman employees and funded by Wal-Mart. The furore even elicited an apology from Richard Edelman on his blog, in which he answers many of the firm’s critics and accounts for the delayed response from the firm.
Edelman has made a big play in the social media space, and so its lapse of judgment has understandably been ill-received among the PR blogging community. What’s interesting is that there has been no comment (at least that I have seen) from Wal-Mart. This work was approved and executed on behalf of Wal-Mart. We may never know whose idea it was, perhaps it was the retail giant’s concept? Edelman may well have counseled against the ploy. It’s a tricky situation if the client insists on an approach which you disagree with. Particularly with a client of this size. Would you resign and suffer the job losses, or note your stance for the record and execute against the client’s demands? Let’s face it, Wal-Mart gets what it wants, and it’s unlikely that Edelman forced an approach on the company which is dubious even to the untrained eye. To my mind, the reverse however, is more plausible. Edelman may have advised Wal-Mart not to press that red button, but then bowed to its considerable will. We’ll never know who was driving the initiative.
What we do know is that Edelman has done a good job in drawing fire away from its client. ‘This is 100% our responsibility and our error; not the client’s,’ states Richard Edelman. Having come this far, he has little choice but to gamely take one for his client. And respect for that.
If it was indeed Edelman’s fault, then I hope Wal-Mart gives it another chance for taking the rap. Sure they blew it, three times in fact, but they fessed up and their reputation took a ding which will no doubt cost them. If it was Wal-Mart’s idea and Edelman took the heat, then this account at least is safe.