Michael Barbaro, of the New York Times, reports on Wal-Mart’s intricate and often successful PR program to plant pro-Wal-Mart messages in blogs. The story begins:
Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. “All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills,” he wrote.
It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.
Wal-Mart’s PR firm, Edelman, scours the blogosphere for mentions of its client. When it finds a positive post, an Edelman employee, Marshall Manson, shoots off a friendly email to the blogger, saying that the post was noticed “at [Wal-Mart’s] corporate headquarters in Bentonville” and offering to send “the occasional update with some newsworthy info about the company and an occasional nugget that you won’t hear about in the M.S.M.” The subsequent updates “are structured like typical blog postings, with a pungent sentence or two introducing a link to a news article or release.”
The pungent sentences and the links frequently make their way into the blogs, often without a mention of the source. It’s the sort of word-of-mouth PR you just can’t buy.