Tom Siebert at Mediapost writes that Edelman has added bylines to posts on "Working Families For Wal-Mart" and "Paid Critics." Add this to the pile. While it's admirable that Edelman is coming clean, they've just accomplished three things, none of them good.
1) They've just sent the message that Wal-Mart doesn't care enough about its business to connect directly with the market itself.
2) They've not gone as far as they should with respect to transparency on either site. The "About Us" section on WFFWM doesn't make any mention of Edelman. In fact, it maintains that it's "a group of leaders from a variety of backgrounds and communities all across America." Umm, no. It's a group of PR guys with access to Wal-Mart's ivory tower. Paid Critics apparently doesn't even have an "About Us" section, though it does describe itself as a "project" of WFFWM. Disclosures should be front and center, not buried somewhere where the casual observer won't see them.
3) They've buried the irony meter by using paid critics to expose paid critics. It completely blunts the impact of what they're trying to do. Rather than a frank discussion of the issues between Wal-Mart and the rest of the world, the whole thing has escalated into a bullshit PR war between paid operatives.
See subheading number one on my column from yesterday. This cannot be faked. Wal-Mart should start speaking directly to its customers and Edelman should get a set and make a choice between the following:
1) Sell out - Be paid agents and embrace it. 2) Go completely transparent - Start over and begin to rebuild trust if any can be salvaged.