Wal-Mart, Young, Edelman and whether to join in the conversation

August 30, 2006

Interesting comments from James Bruni via the NowPublic blogsite about the Wal-Mart and Andrew Young problems. I find Mr. Bruni’s troublesome. He seems to see in the Andrew Young problem an argument for PR firms and/or communicators for organizations to not engage in the blogosphere.  He quotes Richard Edelman of Edelman PR:
“If there’s a mistake about your company, about your product, send them an e-mail, raise your hand. They will correct it. That’s what our studies show very clearly. Either by striking through and writing ‘here’s the fact.’ Or, by correcting. One or the other. Very few of them will leave an inaccurate post.”

But then Bruni suggests that this advice was undermined by the Andrew Young problem and that now Edelman and their “army of young account executives” was busy backtracking to try to recover from Ambassador Young’s unfortunate comments.

I’m sorry, I don’t see the connection. Edelman cannot be blamed for what Young said, even if they recommended hiring him. Based on his history, the comments are very surprising and could not have been predicted, I believe. Secondly, why would the problem with Young counter the message about engaging in the online conversation? If anything, it is more of a reason to participate. There’s a problem, the blog world is talking about it, and he things now is the time that Wal-Mart should disengage? I don’t think so,

Bruni makes the comment that the blogosphere cannot be controlled any more than the Mainstream Media could be controlled. That is pretty obvious and I don’t think Mr Edelman would disagree either. But because it cannot be controlled does not mean it is not important nor does it mean that companies should not engage.

I wonder if Mr Bruni tipped his hand about why he is thinking this way when he suggests that PR people need to refocus on traditional media while “keeping an eye on the blogosphere.” Wow, here’s where the problem really is, in my mind. Traditional PR people are focused almost exclusively on the old media. Hey, it is still very very important. But the world is changing very rapidly in public communication. To make a call for refocusing on something that almost everyone in the business is primarily focused on strikes me as pretty strange.

My take: Edelman is right, Bruni is wrong. Your take?


One Response to “Wal-Mart, Young, Edelman and whether to join in the conversation”

  1. JamesBruni Says:

    Come on, everybody in the PR business is jumping on the Blogosphere bandwagon as an answer to the age old PR agency problem of dealing with the mainstream Press. BM, H&K, RuderFinn, etc. all tout their Blogosphere skills. But, none more than Edelman. They have staked this out as their arena. And, their attempts to reach out to right wing bloggers (as reported in the Times) show this isn’t about creating a dialogue between a company and its critics. As for Young, he became the poster child for a failed Edelman/Walmart campaign overnight. Those Hezobocrat bloggers took Walmart apart for his comments. And, rightfully so.

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