Richard Edelman calls…

Richard Edelman, head of Edelman*, just called. He wrote a blog post about the Walmart/Edelman disclosure (or lack thereof) issue over the weekend. He says “this should not have happened.” He also said he didn’t respond until he had all the facts, which is why both him and Steve Rubel hadn’t responded until now. Now that he has, he says that they didn’t do a good job here and he’s working to educate his staff so this doesn’t happen again. Steve Rubel also wrote about it and was pretty specific “our firm failed to be completely transparent.”

Richard also apologized for his firm’s error.

That’s enough for me. It’s pretty clear, based on our conversation that this isn’t allowable behavior at Edelman and that he isn’t telling his clients it’s a good thing to do this and that, if a similar site goes up, that full disclosure will be there and will be there from the beginning.

*=I made a mistake of my own and said Richard was a founder, that title belongs to his dad.

91 thoughts on “Richard Edelman calls…

  1. accepting responsibility without subsequent accountability — ie, someone resigning or getting fired, or at the least being censured — is NOT “responsibility”.

    interestingly, Edelman’s blog comments are now being held for moderated approval… not sure if that was the case prior to the past few days, or whether Richard just wanted the weekend off. the last comment on his blog was posted just after 5pm on friday.

    in any case, steve’s blog comments are posting, and my response is noted here:
    http://www.micropersuasion.com/2006/10/edelman_pr_ethi.html#comment-24193760

    i’m not a PR expert, but i am a blogger… certainly more transparency, disclosure, and *accountability* is needed here.

    - dave mcclure

  2. accepting responsibility without subsequent accountability — ie, someone resigning or getting fired, or at the least being censured — is NOT “responsibility”.

    interestingly, Edelman’s blog comments are now being held for moderated approval… not sure if that was the case prior to the past few days, or whether Richard just wanted the weekend off. the last comment on his blog was posted just after 5pm on friday.

    in any case, steve’s blog comments are posting, and my response is noted here:
    http://www.micropersuasion.com/2006/10/edelman_pr_ethi.html#comment-24193760

    i’m not a PR expert, but i am a blogger… certainly more transparency, disclosure, and *accountability* is needed here.

    - dave mcclure

  3. Just to follow up:

    While Richard never responded here or in his comments 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 told 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?

    (BTW, this comment is crossposted to Richard’s blog)

  4. Just to follow up:

    While Richard never responded here or in his comments 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 told 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?

    (BTW, this comment is crossposted to Richard’s blog)

  5. For the record…

    Call Goes Out for Edelman and Rubel to Resign

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    NEW YORK – Popular PR industry trade journal Strumpette today declared Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel to be “enemies of the blogosphere,” and demanded their immediate resignations.

    “To live up to its premise, to fulfill its promise, the Me2Revolution must be prepared from time to time to correct its course,” declared Amanda Chapel, managing editor of Strumpette. “Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel have committed numerous acts of abject betrayal that, under any revolution worth the name, would have resulted in their execution in the public square. Edelman and Rubel hurt us, hurt blogging, and hurt PR as a whole. ”

    http://www.strumpette.com/archives/206-Call-Goes-Out-for-Edelman-and-Rubel-to-Resign.html

  6. For the record…

    Call Goes Out for Edelman and Rubel to Resign

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    NEW YORK – Popular PR industry trade journal Strumpette today declared Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel to be “enemies of the blogosphere,” and demanded their immediate resignations.

    “To live up to its premise, to fulfill its promise, the Me2Revolution must be prepared from time to time to correct its course,” declared Amanda Chapel, managing editor of Strumpette. “Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel have committed numerous acts of abject betrayal that, under any revolution worth the name, would have resulted in their execution in the public square. Edelman and Rubel hurt us, hurt blogging, and hurt PR as a whole. ”

    http://www.strumpette.com/archives/206-Call-Goes-Out-for-Edelman-and-Rubel-to-Resign.html

  7. Chris, sure the majority of the real world won’t know or care. But, as far as companies wanting to follow Scoble’s “advice” and get on the blogging train because doing so will solve all your ills (I mean, we have GM as the example…wait! bad example, but they are blogging..woo hoo! er…I mean, “yawn”) all anyone has to do is now point to Edelman as an example of a PR firm NOT to hire. I don’t think their lame “apology”– I still haven’t seen them type the apology word on their blog; the only thing we have is Scoble “reporting” Edeleman apologied—will bail them out. It seems they are more sad that they were found out than that they “screwed up”. The example John Q points out in @37 makes one wonder how many more of those types of blogs are out there that Edeleman is behind. I would like to see them come clean with other similar campaigns they are behind. Or is it up to the readers to figure it out?

  8. Chris, sure the majority of the real world won’t know or care. But, as far as companies wanting to follow Scoble’s “advice” and get on the blogging train because doing so will solve all your ills (I mean, we have GM as the example…wait! bad example, but they are blogging..woo hoo! er…I mean, “yawn”) all anyone has to do is now point to Edelman as an example of a PR firm NOT to hire. I don’t think their lame “apology”– I still haven’t seen them type the apology word on their blog; the only thing we have is Scoble “reporting” Edeleman apologied—will bail them out. It seems they are more sad that they were found out than that they “screwed up”. The example John Q points out in @37 makes one wonder how many more of those types of blogs are out there that Edeleman is behind. I would like to see them come clean with other similar campaigns they are behind. Or is it up to the readers to figure it out?

  9. echo chamber or not, this punches a large hole in the ‘We’re Edelman, trust us’ theory. Reading Edelman and Rubel…awfully reminiscent of PR c.1995.

  10. “Now, as Wal-Mart rolls out a new round of workplace restrictions, employees at a Wal-Mart Super Center in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., are taking matters into their own hands. On Oct. 16, workers on the morning shift walked out in protest against the new policies and rallied outside the store, shouting “We want justice” and criticizing the company’s recent policies as “inhuman.” Workers said the number of participants was about 200, or nearly all of the people on the shift.

    [...]

    The protest wasn’t led by any union group. Rather, it was instigated by two department managers, Guillermo Vasquez and Rosie Larosa. The department managers were not affected directly by the changes, but they felt that the company had gone too far with certain new policies. Among them were moves to cut the hours of full-time employees from 40 hours a week to 32 hours, along with a corresponding cut in wages, and to compel workers to be available for shifts around the clock.

    In addition, the shifts would be decided not by managers, but by a computer at company headquarters. Employees could find themselves working 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. one week and noon to 9 p.m. the next. “So workers cannot pick up their children after school everyday, and part-timers cannot keep another job because they can be called to work anytime,” says Vasquez.

    In addition to scheduling changes and reduction in hours, workers are now required to call an 800 number when they are sick. “If we are at an emergency room and spend the night in a hospital and cannot call the number, they won’t respect that,” says Larosa, who has worked at the store for six years. “It will be counted as an unexcused absence.”

  11. “Now, as Wal-Mart rolls out a new round of workplace restrictions, employees at a Wal-Mart Super Center in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., are taking matters into their own hands. On Oct. 16, workers on the morning shift walked out in protest against the new policies and rallied outside the store, shouting “We want justice” and criticizing the company’s recent policies as “inhuman.” Workers said the number of participants was about 200, or nearly all of the people on the shift.

    [...]

    The protest wasn’t led by any union group. Rather, it was instigated by two department managers, Guillermo Vasquez and Rosie Larosa. The department managers were not affected directly by the changes, but they felt that the company had gone too far with certain new policies. Among them were moves to cut the hours of full-time employees from 40 hours a week to 32 hours, along with a corresponding cut in wages, and to compel workers to be available for shifts around the clock.

    In addition, the shifts would be decided not by managers, but by a computer at company headquarters. Employees could find themselves working 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. one week and noon to 9 p.m. the next. “So workers cannot pick up their children after school everyday, and part-timers cannot keep another job because they can be called to work anytime,” says Vasquez.

    In addition to scheduling changes and reduction in hours, workers are now required to call an 800 number when they are sick. “If we are at an emergency room and spend the night in a hospital and cannot call the number, they won’t respect that,” says Larosa, who has worked at the store for six years. “It will be counted as an unexcused absence.”

  12. The saving grace really, is that 99% of WalMart customers, won’t care a lick about this controversy. Buncha bloggers yapping to other bloggers and PR weenies…one day impact tops, even with the Biz Week profile. Edelman’s own studies even bear this out, just one big echo chamber…

  13. The saving grace really, is that 99% of WalMart customers, won’t care a lick about this controversy. Buncha bloggers yapping to other bloggers and PR weenies…one day impact tops, even with the Biz Week profile. Edelman’s own studies even bear this out, just one big echo chamber…

  14. Hey, don’t forget they also run http://paidcritics.com/ “Exposing the paid critics”. Intended to expose what they think are “paid for” Wal-Mart critics and where they spin conspiracy theories. And the same people come up with the idea of the subversive cross-country tour – designed by Edelman for Working Families for Wal-Mart. What a bunch of hypocriticals.

    They apparently forgot to get the sister domain paidworshippers.com

  15. Hey, don’t forget they also run http://paidcritics.com/ “Exposing the paid critics”. Intended to expose what they think are “paid for” Wal-Mart critics and where they spin conspiracy theories. And the same people come up with the idea of the subversive cross-country tour – designed by Edelman for Working Families for Wal-Mart. What a bunch of hypocriticals.

    They apparently forgot to get the sister domain paidworshippers.com

  16. You know, some people really need to relax a bit.

    Of course the apology and accountability is damage control! But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. Edelman cannot simply do nothing, so why crucify them for trying to do the right thing? I agree that this whole debacle was, at best, extraorinarily sloppy work and, at worst, deceitful and two-faced. But it happened and Richard is taking steps to address it.

    Does the world stop? Are people not allowed to make good?

    For what it’s worth, I was up in arms about this, too, and I let Richard know through a comment on his blog (and a post on my own). He not only answered my comment immediately yesterday, but followed up with an e-mail today providing more detail on what Edelman is doing to address it. What more can I ask at this point?

    Keep things in perspective…we’re not talking about murderers and rapists here.

  17. You know, some people really need to relax a bit.

    Of course the apology and accountability is damage control! But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. Edelman cannot simply do nothing, so why crucify them for trying to do the right thing? I agree that this whole debacle was, at best, extraorinarily sloppy work and, at worst, deceitful and two-faced. But it happened and Richard is taking steps to address it.

    Does the world stop? Are people not allowed to make good?

    For what it’s worth, I was up in arms about this, too, and I let Richard know through a comment on his blog (and a post on my own). He not only answered my comment immediately yesterday, but followed up with an e-mail today providing more detail on what Edelman is doing to address it. What more can I ask at this point?

    Keep things in perspective…we’re not talking about murderers and rapists here.

  18. How is this about educating staff? Are they implying it was lower-level staff? This was likely signed off on a number of levels. Think of all that money that moves between departments. It’s not a “Chris-the-overzealous-intern” sort of thing. If you’re on an account of that size, you have a very high up person to report to, in order to have your budget approved, your plan reviewed, to look over your work, to figure out hiring and freelance pay schemes, right?

    How could this be a mistake in the sense of their not realizing what is inherently wrong with this? It’s not a “whoops”, it’s a “we tried to fool you by talking about transparency and then ignoring our own principles.”

    A mistake is one thing. A lesson to staff on how to be transparent isn’t really the cure-all. This was kind of devious and people at a variety of levels, I’m guessing, were a part of this. People who have been showing up at conferences touting their expertise and trying to set a standard that they themselves can’t follow?

    He should be more specific about exactly what he’s apologizing for. What mistake? What happened? Why?

    Look at it this way, it could be an exercise in transparency.

  19. How is this about educating staff? Are they implying it was lower-level staff? This was likely signed off on a number of levels. Think of all that money that moves between departments. It’s not a “Chris-the-overzealous-intern” sort of thing. If you’re on an account of that size, you have a very high up person to report to, in order to have your budget approved, your plan reviewed, to look over your work, to figure out hiring and freelance pay schemes, right?

    How could this be a mistake in the sense of their not realizing what is inherently wrong with this? It’s not a “whoops”, it’s a “we tried to fool you by talking about transparency and then ignoring our own principles.”

    A mistake is one thing. A lesson to staff on how to be transparent isn’t really the cure-all. This was kind of devious and people at a variety of levels, I’m guessing, were a part of this. People who have been showing up at conferences touting their expertise and trying to set a standard that they themselves can’t follow?

    He should be more specific about exactly what he’s apologizing for. What mistake? What happened? Why?

    Look at it this way, it could be an exercise in transparency.

  20. @23 Actually, no it’s not. Your analogy doesn’t even work. Edeleman has a blog. Why does he need to hide behind you when making an apology? What kind of “naked conversation” is that?

  21. @23 Actually, no it’s not. Your analogy doesn’t even work. Edeleman has a blog. Why does he need to hide behind you when making an apology? What kind of “naked conversation” is that?

  22. David: that’s the kind of behavior I expect from a CEO blogger. It’s also something I take into account when I read Jonathan’s blog. He disclosed he is CEO at Sun, so I’m prepared to get a commercial message or two.

    Just like you should be prepared to get a commercial message or two about Seagate over on ScobleShow cause they are paying me to do my show.

  23. David: that’s the kind of behavior I expect from a CEO blogger. It’s also something I take into account when I read Jonathan’s blog. He disclosed he is CEO at Sun, so I’m prepared to get a commercial message or two.

    Just like you should be prepared to get a commercial message or two about Seagate over on ScobleShow cause they are paying me to do my show.

  24. You are a nice guy, Robert. That’s one thing I always say about you to people – one of the nicest people you meet.

    I think this time you are a little too nice, though. But, geez, hope when my firm screws up, you’ll be this nice when I call and then give us a free pass. ;)

  25. You are a nice guy, Robert. That’s one thing I always say about you to people – one of the nicest people you meet.

    I think this time you are a little too nice, though. But, geez, hope when my firm screws up, you’ll be this nice when I call and then give us a free pass. ;)

  26. Unfortuntely, the actions of Edelman reflect upon the blogosphere in general. The spotlight of questionable credibility had already made it’s rounds, and this action gives credence to the critics.

    Edelman’s “apology” smells like damage control. They got caught and have been scrambling for days to figure out how to contain the havoc.

    VERY disappointing.

  27. Unfortuntely, the actions of Edelman reflect upon the blogosphere in general. The spotlight of questionable credibility had already made it’s rounds, and this action gives credence to the critics.

    Edelman’s “apology” smells like damage control. They got caught and have been scrambling for days to figure out how to contain the havoc.

    VERY disappointing.

  28. Shouldn’t Jonathan Schwartz be called out for being a bit deceptive on his blog? His last two posts focus on his “musings” about changes needed in the data center. Lo and behold, today Sun announced a new data center product. Schwartz didn’t indicate that he knew an announcement was coming – though he obviously did. I’d say it’s a cynical use of blogging as part of an orchestrated marketing campaign, and not quite appropriate.

  29. Shouldn’t Jonathan Schwartz be called out for being a bit deceptive on his blog? His last two posts focus on his “musings” about changes needed in the data center. Lo and behold, today Sun announced a new data center product. Schwartz didn’t indicate that he knew an announcement was coming – though he obviously did. I’d say it’s a cynical use of blogging as part of an orchestrated marketing campaign, and not quite appropriate.

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  31. But the unanswered question remains: who out there is actually blogging posiively about WalMart?

    The real damage is that anyone who may have something positive to write about the firm may be discredited as not real. Thus, WalMart’s in a kind of double-bind. I don’t know if this is repairable at all.

  32. But the unanswered question remains: who out there is actually blogging posiively about WalMart?

    The real damage is that anyone who may have something positive to write about the firm may be discredited as not real. Thus, WalMart’s in a kind of double-bind. I don’t know if this is repairable at all.

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