PR firms need to embrace social media.

Funny how this is coming from the CEO of Edelman.

Why? Who here remembers the Wal-mart blog fiasco (Feb 2006)? It’s already being called the Wal-mart flog (Nov 2006). (Ouch)

I do. Sure, it was 8 months ago (on the front page of the NY Times business section, no less!). But it proved that traditional PR firms know little about the power or even the influence of blogs. See my last entry (forget that these were students he was talking to — but students who wanted in on the PR industry).

Seems like Edelman has gotten itself into some trouble with WOMMA. Their membership with the association is in jeopardy. I suppose they really need to re-evaluate their knowledge of blogs, and how to use them without coming off as an unethical PR agency (which I know is something that PR firms come under constant fire for).

Edelman has been placed under 90 days probation pending examination of their involvement with flogs (fake blogs). They are reported to have been behind some flogs for the store chain: Wal-Marting Across America, Paid Critics and Working Families for Wal-Mart. The entries were posted by anonymous bloggers, but now they carry a first name which, when clicked on, open a brief biography of the blogger — but make no mention that Edelman is a PR agency. (Usually this info is reserved for those ‘in the know’. Honestly, I had no clue what Edelman was until I started working in that industry.)

“This isn’t really full disclosure,” says B.L. Ochman, a blogging consultant who has been outspoken online in her criticism of Edelman’s behavior. “Unless you’re following this thing, or really know the PR world, you would have no idea who Edelman is.”

Agency CEO Richard Edelman may also be called to explain his comments in an interview with the IDG News Service, in which he claimed the only mistake his agency had made was that it was “insufficiently transparent about the identity of one of the two bloggers who went on that RV tour.”

“If that’s really what he thinks, then he just doesn’t get it at all,” Ochman says. “That’s ridiculous.”

He really doesn’t. Is there a blogging seminar he could go to, or something? There are some far better strategies Edelman could have come up with, to avoid this disaster altogether. Other PR agencies have ‘gotten it’, why can’t they?

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