Edelman Shuts Up in Speak Up

Odd, isn’t it, that Edelman Worldwide blogs are called Speak Up when its prominent CEO blogger is absolutely mute about front-page news concerning his firms’ questionable antics in the blogosphere. In recent months Edelman has been buffeted by big stories about murky blog manipulation on behalf of Wal-Mart (see New York Times Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers In P.R. Campaign) and trying to buy favoritism from bloggers by giving them expensive laptops on behalf of Microsoft (see Online Media Daily). As a prominent blogger often on a soapbox for transparency in the industry you would think that Richard Edelman would relish addressing these high-profile issues.

Not so. When Steve Safran, Managing Editor of Lost Remote politely asks Richard Edelman twice in his blog 6AM to “kindly share your thoughts on how the laptop giveaway fits or does not fit into your corporate ethics policies,” Edelman ignores him and instead exchanges pleasantries with fawning employees and associates.  Is this good P.R.? 

In the post Questionable judgement by Edelman in fake blog fiasco in Neville Hobson’s blog over 30 people express their degrees of mystification by Edelman’s silence. 

Richard Edelman started his blog in September, 2004. At first it was a curiosity, he was the only major P.R. agency CEO blogging. After the first year or so it became clear that he was not content with idle musings – he wanted to challenge the industry to clean up its act, embrace new technology, and re-define the process of delivery of information through the Internet. Admirable but dangerous.  He was taking a public advocacy position in an industry that is preternaturally secretive and slow to change.

This could be a case study of the perils of setting yourself up as a public figure through a blog – sooner or later you are going to have to face unpleasant business. When you do: be forthright, acknowledge the problem, deal with it. That’s standard public relations practice.

It was not that Edelman turned into a P.R. philosopher/activist for the good of the people. He saw an opening in the industry – to lead the charge in digital P.R. – and he seized it. It was smart business. But once you set yourself up as the lightning rod you’re going to get zapped - proved by the Microsoft & Wal-Mart imbroglios. The question is – when does Richard Edelman get off the soapbox and into the sandbox and enter the real conversation? (full disclosure – I worked for Edelman Worldwide briefly in 1999).

Relevant posts:

Edelman in the New World (PRBlogNews)

Edelman’s Rescue Plan For The PR Industry (PR Watch)


  1. Shameful says:

    Wonder why PR is still considered the refuge of flacks and spin meisters? See above. Edelman’s behavior and unwillingness is not only outrageous, it’s bad for the reputation (and practice) of the profession.


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