My colleague Niall pointed me to a NY Times article (dated 7th of March if you don’t have a subscription and look for the print version) revealing that Wal-Mart uses bloggers to push its communication agenda. How did the NY Times found out? Several bloggers enrolled in Wal-Mart’s PR program regurgitated almost verbatim most of the statements they received from Edelman, Wal-Mart’s agency. They did that often without naming their sources of their relationship with either company.
This excellent article raises some valid questions about bloggers’ “independence” and what they should disclose to their readers. It seems to me that on the long-term, bloggers who churn out press-releases or have affiliation with companies, but do not disclose them will loose their readers’ trust, thus deflating the very own reason why they were worth engaging with at the first place. From a PR standpoint, it provides an interesting challenge: how to drive communication agenda with bloggers while preserving their authenticity?
Disclaimer: Edelman is a respected competitor to Hill & Knowlton, my agency. This post does not cast any judgement of value but is aimed at stimulating discussion on relationships between PR professionals and bloggers.