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6 A.M.

A Commitment

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Published

For the past several days, I have been listening to the blogging community discuss the cross-country tour that Edelman designed for Working Families for Wal-Mart.

I want to acknowledge our error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers from the outset. This is 100% our responsibility and our error; not the client’s.

Let me reiterate our support for the WOMMA guidelines on transparency, which we helped to write. Our commitment is to openness and engagement because trust is not negotiable and we are working to be sure that commitment is delivered in all our programs.

Richard

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  • Kudos to you for ‘fessing up. How you handled this situation inspired me to apply to your firm. I’ve quit a job over ethics and have been solo for a couple of years. I understand firsthand how unethical companies can operate–and how some never put the brakes on. The fact that you took responsibility is a measure of integrity. Thank you!

  • Hi,

    I am feeling great to visit your blog.I am a businessman. And I feel that sometimes clients will take our advice. However, sometimes they will listen, thank us and choose to approach things differently.

  • Hello,

    Some companies are going beyond blogs and Twitter to incorporate video, social networks, and much more.I look forward to your posts on our other blog too.

    Thanks,

    Andrew Jacob

    China Sources Procurement

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  • I have realized that in the Walmart Universe everything could happen

  • Very useful post to read for me. Thanks a lot.

  • its very nice and amazing project.

  • While the failure of transparency is reprehensible, I have to admire you for your willingness to acknowledge a mistake.

  • Roger

    Call me cycnical but I can’t help wondering if the ‘Hey Richard – Great Job’ posters (of which there are many in this list) are not Edelman consultants or maybe sponsored retirees!

    Was this an error? or calculated deceit?

  • “There’s no evidence (yet) that this mistake is being repeated on other Edelman accounts.”

    Perhaps not, but neither do we have any kind of statement to the contrary from Edelman PR, do we? I find that silence suggestive, at least.

    How hard would it have been to have gathered by now a list of weblogs that Edelman employees maintain on behalf of Edelman clients? If you’re not yet sure the list is definitive, say “this list is a work in progress, and not meant to be definitive”.

    I mean, transparency shouldn’t really be that hard.

    Unless, of course, you’re mostly concerned about timing and shading the truth… you know, ‘spin’.

  • Good, concise and frank response Richard.

    I agree with you and those who would like to pull together a blog committee and guidelines and it would be appropriate to come from our industry. I’d be interested in being a part of it.

    I don’t agree with those who are calling for you to suspend activity while you shore things up. There’s no evidence (yet) that this mistake is being repeated on other Edelman accounts.

  • Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

    While I find it sad that the corporate world has decided blogging is a way to push corporate agendas, it is good that you could admit being in the wrong. I think that the discussion is one much more complex though, than what has been mentioned in the comments.

    Companies need to learn the value of blogs and the Web 2.0. By treating them as simply another media outlet, they fail to gain the benefits that are possible in this new age. Consider, if you would, how much more meaningful and potentially useful (particularly in the world of PR) it would have been for WalMart to begin publishing CxO blogs, daily or weekly posts by the people who actually run the company. One of the things I have found which seperate a small fast moving company, from a gigantic monolithic corporation is the accessibility of the owner. If the owner can communicate directly with the associates and with the customers, then they are more likely to understand the market, understand the challenges in the trenches and, understand the public’s perception of their actions. Web 2.0, Blogs, Podcasts etc all provide an oppurtunity for those who dwell in the ivory tower to actually connect with those who don’t. In my opinion, companies like Edelman should be working with executives to understand, embrace and utilize the mass communication technology to actually change how business works. Using it just to further the standard PR and Media spin indicates, to me, a limited imagination.

    Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

    Chatterer of the Words of Eris

    Muncher of the ChaoAcorn

    POEE of The Great Googlie Mooglie Cabal

  • Just to follow up:

    While Richard never responded here about my points regarding the astroturf sites forwalmart.com and paidcritics.com (and boy, *there* is an ironic domain name), He did try to sooth me by sending me a private email, CC’ing Michael Krempasky from their DC office (who is apparently responsible for running these sites). Michael in turn emailed me they would be adding the author info and Edelman affiliation ASAP.

    I replied noting that I found it interesting that they were only responding to these issues privately instead of publicly, making it look like just more damage control. I never got a further response from them.

    Well, they followed up (sort of) by altering these sites yesterday (and briefly announcing the change on the sites in question), so it is now finally completely clear that the posters on these sites are almost entirely Edelman employees. Richard still hasn’t publicly acknowledged these astroturf sites with a further blog posting on the subject, or even a press release. I did see this news item:

    http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.san&s=49883&Nid=24401&p=302212

    It is obvious to me they are only doing what they feel they must to defuse the situation and minimize any further attention. One trick they used was to immediately follow the change announcement with more ‘news’ items, to push the change down the page.

    However, aside from that, I find these efforts somewhat lacking in the following ways:

    The author info pages linked from each posting say “So-and-so works for Edelman. One of his clients is such-and-such”. It is not necessarily clear to a member of the public that Edelman is a PR firm. Either this should be made explicit in the author info, or even better, the word Edelman should be linked to the Edelman website. Consider this free link-juice for Edelman.

    I also notice that only the two additional sites I’ve been making a stink about have been specifically named so far. Does anyone think that these sites are the only blogs Edelman is running? Or that Wal-Mart is the only client they are doing this for? Yeah, me neither. So where is the full disclosure and transparency?

  • Carmen Harris

    As an Edelman employee, I too was a caught off gaurd by the about of time that passed before someone acknowledged the error. But I have to say that I am quite pleased that you did make this post. Even further to see e-mails about mandatory training for all employees.

    You can definitely believe that Edelman practices what they preach. Having been with the company for less than a year, I am glad to be part of a such an ethical company. And I think that the company’s independence (unlike other large PR firms) has a lot to do with how the CEO can immediately engage all employees in getting educated about it… Hats off to Edelman for that.

  • Will you as a company suspend ALL blog related activity until you can ensure that best practices has been fully and publicly vetted?

    Excuse me but both are NOT going to happen. If you were for real, they would.

    – Amanda Chapel

  • Derek Hodge

    The your consultancy has handled all this is not exactly a recommendation for your Issues and Crisis practice.

  • Dave Taylor

    I appreciate that. And please be clear: I do think that you ARE the leader in this space, Richard…

    Rick, let’s connect. I’d be interested in being part of a committee or group that was pulling together some sort of best practices or guidelines for disclosure across the blogosphere, for companies both big and small…

    Regards,

    Dave Taylor

  • Dennis O’Dell

    Richard,

    Surely this campaign had some buyoff from someone in the organization before it was launched. Given your supposed values and business practices, are you saying the details of this campaign were lost you or not completely outlined before it was launched. Did someone decide to change course in the middle of this campaign, or was this the plan from the outset and your firm is now simply having to express it regrets for being found out? In essensce, how did this campaign get approved in the first place if this type of thing is supposedly anathema to your firms values?

  • Richard Edelman

    I take responsibility for this work product though I was not personally involved. As CEO it is my job to be sure that we have best practices and commitment to education of our work force. Be sure that it is highest on my priority list so this does not happen again. Thanks for writing.

  • Richard Edelman

    AD

    I take this matter seriously. The tour was a good idea. We should have been transparent on the photographer’s last name.

  • For what so many have said about the tardiness of your response, you’ve more than made up for it in my book in terms of the level in which you’ve engaged in this conversation. I hope others are taking note of this as well.

  • Alex Daniels

    “Better late than never”, “Everyone makes mistakes”, etc. Are you idiots serious? You’re probably the same people that think it’s OK for the Bush administration to LIE to the American public by feeding fake stories to American journalists about Iraq. Do you know what propaganda is? Ever hear of Joseph Goebbels? Maybe you think that’s OK as well as those fake White House-sponsored commercials with actors portraying reporters covering health care? Maybe you think it’s OK that radio host Armstrong Williams was paid to promote the president’s failed education plan? But this isn’t about Bush. It’s about stupid Americans like you who think it’s OK to fake the news. If I want fake news then I’ll read the Onion or watch the Daily Show. At least they’re honest.

  • Thanks for the reply Richard!

    Like many I was not familar with this issue until it hit the “blog headlines”. I reviewed some of the old pages from Google Cache and they are good travel blog entries – hardly the propaganda you’d think was there based on the rantings from the zeolots out there.

    Frankly, I don’t think this was a big deal and I’ve written about it here:
    http://joeduck.wordpress.com/2006/10/16/wal-marting-across-america-or-rvs-parking-their-blog-ethics-at-the-door/

    I would recommend that you at least include in your blog comments what Laura wrote at the blog, and I’d put the site back up (but pull the ads) to show how “good” this was as a travel log.

    Sure, your transparency was lacking but the content was sincere. That’s important and it’s getting lost because the “fake Wal Mart blog” is a sexier story line for reporters and bloggers.

    Joe Hunkins “Joe Duck”

  • Richard Edelman

    I am not aware that I am quoted in Business Week. As to your remarks about my post, let?s agree to disagree. I apologized and I provided a way forward for our firm.

  • Richard Edelman

    I was in Europe until Tuesday night. I did not focus on this issue until Wednesday night. It took me a while to get the facts. I posted as soon as I felt I could.

  • Okay. Some of us may still need to vent. I know I did, here, on my blog and on several other blogs. But at some point, we need to get on with it.

    Richard has said he is making changes within his organization to ensure this never happens again. That’s good enough for me.

    I worked for a Company whose values are beyond reproach. Yet sometimes folks got fired because they ignored those values. However, because of the values process in place, the mistakes stayed in-house and caused no harm to the business or to anyone else.

    It is my hope, and belief, that Richard and his staff will produce a values process that prevents such a faux pax from ever occuring again.

  • Lee White

    Richard

    I did not expect a personal response, but I do appreciate it. Something else occurred to me after I left my comment, I think it was prompted by something you said in the comments, this would make a great case study to use with your clients, or to be documented and used to educate the next generation at business/journalism/PR programs. What better experience than the one you have lived through yourself.

    Lee

  • Lewis Green

    Richard,

    I was really angry with your Agency, as whenever those of us in this industry make these sorts of mistakes, it hurts all of us. And, unfortunately, so many in the business world expect bad behavior from us.

    I believe you “will prove ourselves with good work and ethical behavior.” Count me in as a converted Edelman WOM evangelist.

    Respectfully yours,

    Lewis Green

  • Richard, your apology is inadequate. You’ve spent more than a year preaching transparency in digital media communications, and overall integry in PR, and yet you allowed this to take place in your organization.

    How do you explain that? To say it was wrong is stating the obvious, and to say you spent a week “getting the facts” is simply not credible.

  • Richard Edelman

    LG I know, I know.

    I am really unhappy with our performance on this one. We will prove ourselves with good work and ethical behavior.

  • I can’t believe that your actions are getting any support at all from the PR community. As someone who has been in PR for nearly 20 years, I’m offended in the extreme. We have strived for years to get a seat at the table and not be thought of as perhaps a handy little add-on to overall strategy; stunts like the one you pulled put the reputation of PR back ten years. Plus, as someone who maintains a personal blog, I resent the living daylights out of the idea that the blogging community is easy to take advantage of; speaking down to a huge potential audience is not, Mr. Edelman, good PR.

    While apologizing is “doing the right thing” what you did was hope to hide in the shadows for a while. The fact that your agency even engaged in this type of activity says a lot about your employees’ business ethics; the fact that you didn’t immediately issue an apology says a lot about yours. Your quote in BusinessWeek is so hypocritical that it’s funny.

    Oh and by the way, sir — “BusinessWeek” is one word, not two.

  • Jesse Ciccone

    Richard,

    These seem like very good steps. Thank you for taking this seriously and for taking the time to address my comment directly and individually.

    Best regards,

    Jesse

  • Richard,

    I submitted a comment that was never posted but that’s okay. It is obvious that you are doing all you can to ensure this never happens again, and kudos for that.

    Unfortunaely, it appears some in your business shelved your values memo. That should never happen, and everything a business does should first be filtered through our values, which should not be about profit.

    Lewis

  • This Blog-a-dope that happen, brought me to Walmart for Working Families. I had something to share how Wal-Mart helped our cause.

    Sometimes you make mistakes and fall, which we all do, but the best thing in life is that you have the ability to learn from mistakes and still achieve your goals. Can you help us?

  • Richard Edelman

    We are having our Me2Revolution gang (Rubel, Murray, Gomes etc) go on the road to all of our office to explain our standard for transparency.

    We are making this a core part of Edelman University

    We are going to have a central clearinghouse for social media programs

    We will walk the talk!

  • Richard Edelman

    I think that you can be 100% confident that Business Week is not getting anything from Edelman on the Wal-Mart ad agency search.

  • Richard Edelman

    DT I accept your critique. I know that we have positioned ourselves as leaders and as such, we deserve the heat.

    I think that you propose an interesting concept and I pass it along to Rick who runs Me2Revolution for us.

  • Richard Edelman

    Amanda, I don’t agree about the inevitability of this.

  • Richard Edelman

    NH we should have insisted on this level of transparency as a condition of the tour. I will revert on more details as I have them. We are committed to doing a great job of training our people so this does not happen again.

  • matthew yeomans

    It’s a tricky one Richard – in many ways Steve Rubel’s blog name is very applicable for the situation you guys found yourself in: social media moves so quickly and is judged on such small increments that reputation really does depend on increment of micropersuasion.

    I appreciate your response and I think it’s important and good that you’ve taken a hands-on approach to responding to this issue.

    best wishes,

    matthew

  • Richard Edelman

    Lee, I got back from Europe Tuesday night. I spent Wednesday trying to sort out issues with Technorati Top 100 data in FR GER IT. The issue did not hit my consciousness until Thursday because I went home early on Wed afternoon with serious jet lag. I spent Thursday and Friday checking facts, then wrote a draft post on the weekend which was vetted by the DC team who worked on the account for accuracy. I then posted on Monday. Thanks

  • Edw3rd

    These deceptive practices and manipulations lead me (at least) to wonder whether someone at Edelman provided Burt Helm at BW that confidential Wal-Mart RFP, reported last month, or facilitated last weeks giddy follow-up story about GSD&M’s innovative advertising efforts for Wal-Mart – just in time for agency presentations in Bentonville.

    Coincidence? Probably. Speculation? Definitely.

    But a breach of trust bolstered by a few quick google searches casts shadows: there’s a predominance of Edelman hits in Burt Helms’ reporting, quite a number of mutual hits with GSD&M – oddly enough with WOMMA taking prominence, you’ve publicly railed against the big (integrated) ad agencies, and you have a stake in the outcome of the pitch.

    Maybe the money is better left at the advertising table. Isn’t that what you’re really chasing with these new media “mistakes”?

  • Richard Edelman

    Matt I may have erred in waiting until I had all of the facts but that was my decision. I hear you

  • Richard Edelman

    BO’M

    We will try like heck to make that happen

  • Richard Edelman

    Just keep tabs on our work. We will try to regain your trust.

  • Richard Edelman

    Just watch us from now on. Thanks

  • Richard Edelman

    Greg point taken. I am not happy about this either. We have work to do.

  • Richard Edelman

    I remain optimistic that we are going in the right direction. Thanks EH

  • Richard Edelman

    You can conclude that as a firm, we still have work to do to get 100% understanding and acceptance of how to work with the blogosphere. We will get there.

  • Richard Edelman

    George

    I waited (perhaps wrongly) until I understood all of the facts. I could have put out a holding statement but thought I was doing the right thing to wait. As for Wal-Mart as a client, I am proud to work on that assignment.

  • Richard Edelman

    I am taking this very seriously. We will do better. We are a fine firm with committed employees of the highest integrity.

  • Richard Edelman

    We will be vetting all social media programs via Me2Revolution group. Steve is in that area. Good idea

  • Richard Edelman

    Mike, not our finest hour for sure. We have work to do internally on best practice.

  • Richard Edelman

    Thanks. We will continue to innovate. But we must have best practice and ethical behavior.

  • Richard Edelman

    D I waited until I had the facts. I could have had a holding statement on Friday but opted to wait. Perhaps you are right…

  • Michael Driehorst

    Mr. Edelman,
    I would agree. It seems that the criticism and outcry has been so extreme because you and your company have been one of the few companies really at the forefront of blogging and other social media in public relations. It’s almost as if we’ve been told there really isn’t a Santa Claus.

    But, ultimately, it matters less what the rest of the PR industry thinks as it matters what your clients and prospective clients think.

    Take care, and good luck.
    Mike

  • I still think Wal-Mart’s a bunch of boneheads, but I really admire your taking full responsibility for properly guiding your client. 🙂

  • Hmm. No reply to my request for disclosure of the identities of the ‘bloggers’ at the paidcritics.com and forwalmart.com astroturf sites… interesting.

  • Sinners make the best preachers. I hope Edleman uses this case to become a stronger company and a better leader for social media.

  • Richard Edelman

    Mike, this was our potato and we dropped it, not Wal-Mart. Thanks.

  • Richard Edelman

    JH I do believe we were not sufficiently transparent on the last names of the road trippers. As for any support you give, I welcome it.

  • Richard Edelman

    I waited until I had the full story. No excuse but I got back from Europe on Tuesday night. I could have issued a holding statement, fair enough.

  • Dino Baskovic

    Thank you for the reply.

    Well, I’m just as guilty of Monday morning quarterbacking as anybody on this one, and I can’t even imagine what pressures were put on you by certain parties not to say anything at first. That, and no matter how hard we all try, nobody’s perfect.

    Bill Sledzik (my PR prof at Kent State; blog is toughsledding.wordpress.com) made it abundantly clear that mistakes, no matter how costly, help us learn and eventually succeed. So, look on the bright side—you’ll come out ahead as a better agency. At least I tell my own clients this now, and for the most part they listen…

    Keep up the good work. Sorry I didn’t come to work for you when I had the chance. Bill made me go work for Shandwick after college 🙂

    DB

  • Thanks for honoring my request so quickly! And again, if the Working Families For Wal-Mart campaign becomes “more transparent,” feel free to post the article again. I’m looking forward to our intown Atlanta, yuppiefied, Wal-Mart grand opening tomorrow.

  • Richard,

    As I said in my trackback (not posted at the time of this comment), it takes a stand-up guy/gal to admit mistakes. Here is where I have problems:

    1. Those of us in this industry fight everyday to gain trust and credibility, and there will always be those who think of us as little more than sideshow barkers.
    2. Apologies do not make up for the bad impressions made.
    3. Apologies do not repair the damage to Edelman’s trust and credibility. How can anyone, client or practitioner, believe even the apology?

    Sounds tough, I know. But what your agency did hurts all of us.

    Lewis

  • Dino Baskovic

    Mr. Edelman, I have a great deal of respect for you, your firm and your work. It stands to reason that you can’t keep personal watch on each and every one of your account teams, and nobody wants to see you become the Dan Rather of the PR industry over this.

    Still, I can’t help but recall some basic PR 101 learned in college and during my agency days: “never ‘no comment'”. Strip away the blogging aspect of this, WOMMA, whatever…and you’re left a dusty Pat Jackson tome telling you what to do, right there in black and white. With all due respect, it was silly of you not to say anything.

    Perhaps this was a blunder, but a boo-boo of a blunder as far as blunders go. Lesson (re)learned, and let’s all move on. Good luck, and keep up the good work–just better now.

  • While you tout the virtues of transparency, your actions speak volumes.

    Sounds to me as if Edelman is playing damage control now. I wonder how much thought would have been given to this had such an uproar not occured in the blogosphere.

    Unfortunately, given your role in the industry, this action reflects upon all of us. I think this fiasco creates a shadow of illegitimacy on blogs in general. Good work.

  • I wish you, or Mr. Krempasky in the DC office, would take my editorial off of the Georgia Families For Wal-Mart homepage/site. I stand behind my message about Wal-Mart here in Atlanta and the editorial direction I took, but it disturbs me that my work appears on a site that is STILL so relentlessly untransparent, and thus STILL unethical.

  • How can we even know that your commenters are not phony too? Or part of a WalMart face-saving op? Can i trust you again?

  • Andrew

    It is really a shame that the About Us page on Working Families for Walmart still tries to lead visitors to believe that what they are viewing is a grassroots effort on the part of Not-Walmart to promote Walmart’s agenda. Very misleading.

  • Richard, I’m glad to hear that you are including employee education as part of Edelman’s response to this bad blogosphere weather. I hope some kind of timeline emerges so that this can be used as a case study in corporate blogging. It could be a long week… .

  • Your company has the clout to drop misbehaving clients. If Wal-Mart’s making you do stuff you know is stupid, drop ’em. Publicly.

  • It’s been sort of stunning waiting for some sort of comment from someone at Edelman. Even a completely neutral acknowledgement that you’re aware a discussion is taking place would have been better than nothing.

    That being said, this post is a good start. Without knowing more, I can’t be specific, but I doubt that failing to reveal the last names of the bloggers is the only failure of transparency here.

    I can’t criticize your firm for trying new things. That’s how everyone learns. Just don’t do the ostrich thing. Everyone can see your butts sticking in the air. 😉

  • Kudos to you for taking ownership of this. Thank you for standing by your messaging around the need to be transparent and accountable, and the need to take responsibility for actions.

  • A sincere and heartfelt apology is always appropriate, no matter how long it takes. Richard, if anything, the delay and resultant discussion in the blogosphere has helped to educate more individuals on the importance of transparency. While Edelman’s reputation may suffer in the short term, we marketers have collectively learned a lesson.

    Thanks for taking the high road on this and good luck with other endeavors.

  • With all due respect this apology seems too thin, and ironically itself sounds like part of the PR-driven rather than the “blog community” approach to the issue which would outline the scoop for everybody and explain how this got so out of hand.

    It’s not even clear to me that you seriously defied WOMMA guidelines assuming that things are exactly as described over at the WalMarting Across America blog. Rather it looks like somebody at Edelman saw an excellent and legitimate opportunity and then chose to fund it in a way that turned this into a blog that was too sponsored to retain credibility.

    Sheesh – I think I’m articulating your position at greater length than you are?!

  • Hi Richard,

    I wonder what you think about the idea of making Steve Rubel Edelman’s blogosphere ombudsman. A number of his readers are riding him pretty hard for keeping silent during your period of fact-checking prior to responding to the controversy.

    I think it’s a fantastic idea and one that you should at least take under advisement.

    Best,

    Teresa

  • But, Mr. Edelman and et al: How could you not know that what was going on (a fake blog, etc.) contradicts what you and others have espoused repeatedly? Were junior AEs spearheading the project?

    Also, with such a large client as Wal-Mart, with as many Wal-Mart haters there are out there, and using a professional photographer, how could you think that the project could be done without being uncovered?

    Sounds like a bit of arrogance or, at least, naivety involved.

    I do commend you for coming forward once you knew all the details. Hopefully, you would’ve done so — even without the outcry there was.

    Mike

  • I just looked up “schadenfreude” in the dictionary and saw a photo of a blogger next to the word. Yes, Edelman goofed (something human beings do from time to time). But at least they walked the talk and ran with a big, hairy, original idea.

  • Richard,

    I never doubted that you would do the right thing by publicly acknowledging this misstep.

    Thanks for leading by example.

    Peter

    PS Fab Eric Pfanner piece today…

  • Isn’t this PR 101? Come clean and admit mistakes were made, take 100% responsibility and throw yourself at the mercy of those most offended. The fact that nearly a week went by without an acknowledgement is quickly forgotten and all is forgiven. The blogosphere has a short memory.

  • So, we’re waiting for you to also disclose the identities of the ‘bloggers’ at paidcritics.com and forwalmart.com.

  • Paulette Pierre

    Interesting. I may be a little late to the party and I am admittedly new to the PR game, but WOW-seems to me you violated the very tenets of your guidelines on transparency (“openeness, trust”).

    Armed with this knowledge, why did you even think it was acceptable to move forward with this plan?? The word “hypocrisy” comes to mind.

    I can appreciate your mea culpa and taking the heat for the severe error in judgment. But perhaps Edelman should have realized the error of their ways and not sat on their hands to see if it would just slip by without being noticed.

  • Not everyone can bat 1.000.

    Mistakes do get made. It’s time to acknowledge and move on.

  • Hi Richard,

    Nice to (finally) hear from you.

    I’ve been impressed with Edelman for quite some time and have even used your business as a case study of a web 2.0-tuned organization. I guess that’s why it pains me so to see you make such sophomoric mistakes.

    Steve suggests on his blog that there is a process in place that prevented you (both/all) from talking about the situation until now. Clearly, that process is outdated and needs revising.

    At the very least, something like “we’re aware of the situation and will respond in due course.” At the very least, it would help people understand that you were not turning a blind eye to the whole thing in the hopes that it would simply go away. That is a sure-fire way of growing negative WOM.

    Your delay in response fuelled speculation and doubt. Your absence from the conversation shifted the focus from Wal-Mart squarely onto Edelman. Perhaps that’s where it belonged the entire time.

    This goes down in my book as a complete failure to walk the talk.

    I believe that you missed an opportunity to show what the future of PR and communications will look like when done right. Instead, the way this went down has old-school PR written all over it.

    And as for working with Wal-Mart, when you hang around dogs, you get fleas.

    ~G~

  • For those of you calling for an explanation about how this happened, there’s a pretty decent explanation on the Wal-Marting blog itself.

    Not that I still wouldn’t love to hear the story from Richard and from Steve Rubel.

  • David

    So, you knew that it was wrong (because you helped write the WOMMA guidelines) and yet you did it anyway.

    What conclusions are we supposed to draw from this post?

  • Richard, thank you for this apology. The larger your company gets, the harder it becomes to maintain standards. The most important thing is to try, which is more or less what I said on my blog this morning when I criticised fellow PR bloggers for being a bit too quick to criticise Edelman.

  • Richard,

    There is no doubt that Edelman talks the best game in the world of PR when it comes to social media. That your company took part in something that so completely goes against the grain of the advice you give to your clients and readers alike is disturbing to anyone looking for guidance/leadership in social media conversation.

    I’ll be interested to hear from your blog voices what Edelman has learned from this episode and how you can enact a corporate approach that actually adheres to the principles you talk about.

    One final note – like it or not, failing to respond to credible criticism for days on end is bad for business in today’s media world. But you know that – you guys have have been preaching that for a while now.

  • In the interest of transparency, I would like to see the timeline of events that occurred at Edelman over the past few days. I think everyone would be interested in understanding what facts needed to be gathered, when they were gathered and what specific conclusions or learnings were drawn from them.

  • Richard Edelman

    N a failure on our part to insist on use of last names which we would normally have as best practice in PR. A good creative program that only required normal disclosure. Believe me we are on the case on education of our employees on transparency.

  • Nicely done Richard. We all make mistakes and anyone who wants to be sanctimonious enough to rant away at you or your firm would be wise to look in the mirror. I’m impressed by the fact that you took the advice you would clearly have given a client. It’s time for everyone to take note of what’s to be learned from this and move on.

  • Yes, thank you for being accountable and sparing the excuses. But, frankly, I’m left a little unsatisfied, considering the time it took to gather the facts so you could respond. Are there facts that had bearing? (If not, so be it.) More importantly, what can you tell us about the steps you are taking ensure that ‘trust is not negotiable’?

    You’ve set yourselves up as social media trailblazers. Mistakes will be made. Show us how you have learned from it, so we can all benefit from the lesson.

  • Richard Edelman

    Matt I posted as soon as I could be confident in my conclusions. Thanks for reading my blog

  • Til the next time.

    Richard, bottom line, there is an inherent conflict between what you do and what you preach. As a marketing firm in the “conversation,” it is only a matter of time before you or your firm again gets caught withholding information or manipulating on behalf of your clients. Excuse me but… that’s PR.

    – Amanda Chapel

  • Basil Hatto

    It’s great that this (acknowledgment) has come directly from you Richard and not from someone else.

  • Good to see a clear acknowledgment, Richard. Thanks for posting it. Criticisms of Edelman’s silence have been increasingly strident, and which seem to have over-shadowed the original issue.

    This whole kerfuffle is illustrative of imperfection, ie, nobody’s perfect. It’s actually good to see that.

    You acknowledge your error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers. Can you extend the transparency and comment a little bit more about how this happened?

  • And so, what, we’re supposed to say “Okay, Richard, all is good in Edelman-land again?” If you were newbies just getting your proverbial feet wet in the blogosphere, that’d be one thing, but for your agency, one that prides itself on being plugged into the Web 2.0 / social media world, to have made this sort of crass mistake is a bit shocking.

    How is it that you violate the WOMMA ethics rule and are still a member, for that matter? In organizations like the National Speaker’s Association, if you violate their ethical standards you’re out. No questions, no debate. It’s just that simple.

    If you want to leverage this mistake in a positive direction, perhaps a move to create a Blog Disclosure Community Standard or similar is in order? Certainly there are a number of people who have been banging on that drum for a while, and if we had one, then compliance would have avoided this entire fracas in the first place.

  • Richard Edelman

    We needed to wait until we had all of the facts. I posted as soon as I was fully confident. Thanks for your comment.

  • Richard Edelman

    Note that I waited to post until we had all of the facts but I am absolutely clear that we were wrong and have to do better. I believe in our ability to deliver on that promise.

  • FredSox49

    Bad, but not quite as bad as Ketchum’s transgression, which Richard had the courage to condemn while others waffled.

    Those that wonder why the industry has such a bad reputation need only to look at instances like these. The public isn’t cynical enough without being given futher ammunition.

  • James Bruni

    Good move. The PR bloggers and critics will take note of this mea culpa.

  • Better late than never.

  • Kudos for taking ownership of this one, Richard. It may have taken a little longer than some would have liked, but I am glad to see that you’re not trying to rationalize it in some way. I hope you’re not just falling on your sword for Wal-Mart’s benefit.

  • Yeah, you guys screwed up. Way to suck it up and admit it! The truth is, you guys are pretty damn good when it comes to the blogosphere. Everyone makes mistakes. I think Big Bird said that.

  • Finally!

    What took you so long? For someone as intimately involved with the blogosphere as yourself the past few days must have seemed like a lifetime.

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