Two blogs that purported to be independent supporters of giant retailer Wal-Mart were written by employees of Edelman, the public relations firm that was just awarded a contract to handle the consumer launch of Microsoft’s two biggest products.
Blogs posted on Working Families for Wal-Mart, which describes itself as “a group of leaders from a variety of backgrounds and communities all across America,” were authored by an Edelman employee. Wal-Mart and WFWM are Edelman clients. A related site, PaidCritics.com, which ferrets out links between Wal-Mart critics and unions or other groups with skin in the game, also consists of blogs written by Edelman employees.
Until recently, the blogs did not carry the names of their authors, thus appearing to be the work of WFWM members rather than paid employees of its PR firm. A banner on the PaidCritics site says, “Had enough of the paid critics smearing Wal-Mart? Join Working Families for Wal-Mart today.”
It came after Edelman CEO Richard Edelman acknowledged on Monday that not disclosing the whole story of another Edelman-backed Wal-Mart PR stunt was a mistake. In that case, it was Wal-Marting Across America, an online journal of RVers camped out in the big-box retailer’s expansive parking lots.
Richard Edelman updated his blog today with a set of specific steps the company is taking to address the issue. These include: a thorough global audit of its programs; a mandatory class for all employees on ethics in social media; a hotline for employees to review social media programs before they’re implemented; ethics materials to be distributed around the company.