Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wal-Mart Can't Blog it Right

Update: I wrote about this late night in India on my obscure blog and I get a hiy from Edelman PR on this post. Wow, if this is not a coincidence, they track the blogs fast!

Looks like Wal-Mart paid Jim and Laura for writing postitive things on their blog Wal-Marting Across America. The topmost post sounds so defensive!

Business Week has two excellent stories on this episode.

From Story 1
Every Wal-Mart employee that Laura and Jim run into, from store clerks to photogenic executives, absolutely loves to work at the store. Sound like a great Wal-Mart publicity campaign? Anyone familiar with Wal-Mart and its reputation for being quite stingy with wages and benefits will roll their eyes at such a rosy picture. In fact, some critics are so skeptical that they wonder whether Jim and Laura are real or whether they were concocted at the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

"Wal-Mart has hired fake people," says Jonathan Rees, a labor historian and associate professor at Colorado State University at Pueblo, who has also worked as a staff researcher at the AFL-CIO. In a blog posting for the Web site The Writing On the Wal, Reese published an open letter to Laura and Jim challenging them to reveal themselves and asking who paid for their RV and gas.
From Story 2
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. BusinessWeek.com wrote the first exposé about the blog. The story shot down speculation that Jim and Laura weren't real people, identifying the woman as Laura St. Claire, a freelance writer and an employee at the U.S. Treasury department. But it also disclosed that Wal-Mart was paying plenty for the couple's support, including money for renting the RV, gas, and fees for writing the blog ...
And here is the post from Jonathan Rees's Blog

Dear “Jim” and “Laura:”

Please prove to me that you exist. I realize that’s a rude way to start out an e-mail, but you see I notice your blog Wal-Marting Across America is sponsored by Working Families for Wal-Mart (which is where I found the link to it). Working Families for Wal-Mart is, I hope you know, sponsored by Wal-Mart and run by the Edelman public relations firm out of Washington, D.C. So I hope you understand why I’m cynical. Your trip is being made possible by the company you are describing. This may explain why your blog, like every other Edelman blog, is not enabled to accept comments.

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