Friday, October 20, 2006

Say it isn't so, Steve!

Talk about disillusioned! It turns out that one of my favorite bloggers, Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion (and of Edelman PR), has lately been a party to PR fraud.

Eew! Say it isn't so, Steve!

In case you've been stuck in the same closet I've apparently been in, and missed all the ruckus, Edelman PR created a couple of fake blogs or "flogs" (some call them "astroturf") for its client, Wal-Mart (gee, why am I not surprised!).

You can read all about it in this article on BusinessWeek.com, which first exposed the fraud. BW notes:
It all started last month, when a folksy blog called Wal-Marting Across America was set up. The site featured the musings of a couple known only as Jim and Laura as they drove cross country in an RV, and included regular interviews with Wal-Mart workers, who were dependably happy about the company and their working conditions.
But it turned out "Jim and Laura" weren't real RVers, or real bloggers...they were paid schills for Wal-Mart.

Apparently Edelman PR organized the RV trip and accompanying "flog" through a fake-populist group called Working Families for Wal-Mart, which BW notes is funded by Wal-Mart. Once BW pulled back the curtains and exposed the fraud, it took Edelman over a week to admit to making it all up...so much for its vaunted quick-response crisis communications.

For a tongue-in-cheek (or maybe not) rant on this situation, check out strumpette's call for Edelman and Rubel to resign.

A bit extreme? Maybe. But I do seem to recall some sections of the PRSA Code of Ethics that relate to this kind of situation. For example:
HONESTY: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
Yeah, right. Well, as much as I enjoy reading Rubel's explorations of new/social media, maybe he needs to take a "time out" to brush up on the basics.

3 comments:

Steve Rubel said...

Hi. Thanks for your post. If you re-read my posts, you will see I had no personal role on the project. However, I will have one going forward on ethics.

Postmodern Sass said...

PR fraud? That's, like, an oxymoron, right?

CA McCune said...

Then I stand corrected. I'm glad you weren't involved in these deceptive blogs, Steve R., and that you're stepping up to the plate on the issue of PR ethics at Edelman. Your Micro Persuasion blog continues to be one of my favorites...a great source of new media/social media info and trends.

And, no, postmodern sass, I don't think PR fraud is an oxymoron. Ethical PR practioners do exist -- hey, I was one. It is possible to represent your organization's best interests without resorting to deceit, deception or misdirection.
Plenty of PR folks do so without ever crossing that line.