Washing your word of mouth out with soap

Last chance to give me advice about facing Richard Edelman over Walmartgate and more at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association confab. I need to tell them yea or nay Tuesday. Right now, I’m leaning against doing it. I don’t think it’s our job to tell flacks how to flack us. And I think my position would be a no-win: I’m either the asshole or the wuss, depending on my performance and where you come in on this. Weigh in. Earlier advice here.

: LATER: My current thought is that I would at least insist on the ability to start by saying why I think their organization should not exist. I’ll outline those reasons later.

: UPDATE: I’ve decided not to do it. More on why later.

  • I still say go as a reporter, not as a mouthpiece, asshole, or wuss. One of the bigger blog stories of the year and you’re leaning toward passing it up. Imagine if you hadn’t blogged your Dell experience. Instead, be incredulous. Ask questions, and by doing so, stir shit up. And video the thing. Be the citizen journalist. If you go, have fun with it.

    What would Stern do?

  • I agree with Brett. You’re the man I’d want there asking the tough questions and demanding accountability. You’re not there to tell him how to do his job – you’re there to ask him why the F he thinks so little of his audience.

  • john

    But you are an asshole…and a wuss.

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  • Hi Jeff,

    I have now done some more readings. My opinion of Nielsen BuzzMetrics (CEO of Nielsen BuzzMetrics happens to be a co-founder and director of the WOMMA) isn’t that high at the moment after I spent some time writing about their “blog banning” decision,

    So, in my current biased mindset, I say you should probably skip this WOMMA meeting. Just feel like you will be “used” more if you attend. Why give them more credibility?

    Please tell us your decision and reasoning when you make up your mind.


  • Jeff:
    Those of us at the Writing on the Wal blog have been covering this from the start. In fact Jonathan Rees was the one who first started asking the question as to who these people really were. His insistence is what got the story noticed by Business Week.

    So perhaps you should just solicit some questions from those on the site who have been tracking this story most closely (not me) and add them to your points. (http://thewritingonthewal.net)

    I don’t see much difference between being a debater or a reporter in this case, since you will probably blog the event either way.

  • Shalom Jeff,

    I think your initial thought is the right one.

    For me, debating a flack about flacking in a Journalism world is like debating a creationist/intelligent designist/critical analystist advocate about teaching superstition in a Science world.

    Don’t give Edelman the platform. Let him go endlessly debate other flacks and leave flackery in the Peddling world where it belongs.


    Jeff Hess
    The Writing On The Wal

  • As the French say “He who is absent is always wrong.” Accept the invitation. Engaging others in intellectually honest conversation may not change minds however it may well serve to bring relevant issues to the fore, something not as likely in your absence. Jeff, you have my proxy

  • Yeah, but why do you have to be a debater/reporter at THIS conference? As someone recently commented on the previous related post, you can ask Edelman the questions now. And why does it have to be “you”? Yes, of course we know why from their perspective, it makes them look good and relevant, but that’s precisely why you shouldn’t go to the conference. I’m sorry, I can’t get away from the fact that your presence there serves them way much more than it does you or the rest of us.

    I don’t even understand the point of you interviewing Edelman in the first place. Has he not been fully forthcoming to date? Is it gonna produce any surprises or revelations from either side at this point? I mean, if that’s the case, WHY FUCKIN’ WAIT?? Solicit questions from us and host the Q&A here on Buzzmachine, your turf, not in some DC conference hall, and do it NOW, not in December. Fer crissakes, this is blogging. Not magazine publishing.

  • Don’t go.

    The whole exercise is pointless, and appears to be simply a pre-arranged publicity stunt designed to make Edelman appear “open.”

    There have been plenty of opportunities for the Me2Revolutioners to speak their piece about what happened, and they refused.

    The bottom line is that this wasn’t a “mistake” by social media gurus. It was the same ol, tired “front group,” fake grassroots communications effort that PR firms have been trotting out for years.

    Edelman staffed the Wal-Mart account like it was a political campaign, and the people involved ran the account like it was political campaign. Except they forgot that Wal-Mart isn’t running for office.

    If you have questions for Edelman, ask them here on your blog and see what kind of response you get.

  • Jeff:

    If you do it, you ought to question the whole idea of PR firms setting up dummy organizations like Working Families for Wal-Mart, not just focus on the blogs. Why does Wal-Mart and Working Families for Wal-Mart have separate accounts with Edelman even though the second organization is funded entirely by the first? I predict Richard Edelman will refuse to discuss this stuff as outside your ground rules. If Working Families for Wal-Mart won’t discuss its funding (and it won’t), why should Edelman discuss taht subject? If that’s true, then you shouldn’t agree to the debate.

  • I wouldn’t go, but then I am also not a reporter or journalist. If I were, my first question to myself would then be ‘What is the strongest hidden agenda behind this conference?” and, in this case, I’d probably come to the conclusion that the whole thing is central to Edelman’s goal of redeeming themselves in the blogosphere. I also don’t believe that there can be a truly independent and dissident voice at such an event. It’s a meeting of people who are focused on how to buy other people …in a ‘publicly acceptable’ way. They are and will continue to be doing that. Some bloggers buy it and join in. Others don’t. If you don’t, then why join them to discuss how they do it (or to discuss damage control in the back room). Will you learn more about what they do and how? I doubt that their agendas can be changed in any meaningful way. I would expect anyone who does buy in to be first in line there. For those who do, I believe that having such an association ‘can’ be useful only if it has even a dollop of impartiality or autonomy at all. That can be contributed by individuals who do not make money from blogging, journalism, pr, or media, and, rarely, from within the industry itself by individual leaders. The usefulness, for example, can be as simple as an industry means of shaming and ostracizing the worst practitioners, in order to protect and sanitize their turf.


  • Looks like the reader feedback is overwhelmingly “no” but obviously this isn’t a voter referendum. Your decision (there is no right or wrong) and reasons will be very interesting to us all, and of course they’ll ultimately be your own. Good luck.

  • Richard Edelman does nothing that isn’t in Richard Edelman’s best interests. Nothing wrong with that, but there isn’t a lot of room there for actual dialog. If you go, do so with both eyes open (and wear a cup).

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