Wal-Mart Spams Blogosphere – NYT

Wal-Mart is spamming the bloggosphere according to the New York Times.

Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. "All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills," he wrote.

It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.

Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell’s Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart’s public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.

This is going to be a wonderful case study of how not only NOT to respond to the blogosphere, but how to create a crisis.  Edelman or not.  This reminds me of "spam as part of the system" from Shirky.  You can’t count on ethics when snarky pays better.  Example again from the NYT article:

When they learned that The New York Times was looking at how they were using
information from the retailer, several bloggers posted items challenging The
Times’s article before it had appeared. One blog, Iowa Voice, run by Mr.
Pickrell, pleads for advertisers to buy space on the blog in anticipation of
more traffic because of the article.

Given a material incentive (to sell ads) and no direct material incentive (no payment from Edelman with the exception of "access") then things will go to the dark side without journalistic integrity.  Yes bloggers SHOULD have integrity, but there isn’t exactly a certification process and nor should there be.

Now, on the flip side for Wal-Mart I can see the importance of communication with all employees and consistent messaging from communications as an adjunct to external PR.  But sending blog-sound-bytes in the form of ghost written sentences to post on your blog is a BAD PR idea.  And I suspect the NYT writer enjoyed writing the article…. just to be sure nobody thinks he is on the editorial board.