Why Would WalMart Need a Fake Blog to Communicate with RV Travelers?
Shel Holtz reports on the revelation that WalMart, through their PR team at Edelman, has been publishing a fake blog about a couple traveling the country in an RV using WalMart parking lots:
"In case you missed the story, a blog ostensibly authored by a couple traveling across America in their RV and spending nights parked in WalMart parking lots turned out to be a fake blog, the brainchild of WalMart?｢どｨび｢s PR counselors at Edelman. While fake blogs (and other fake social media) are nothing new, it?｢どｨび｢s dismaying to see it emerge from Edelman, which has some of the smarter new-media people on its staff (Phil Gomes, Michael Wiley, Steve Rubel and more), and which touts itself as the PR firm that truly gets social media. This is the third time (as Todd Defren noted in his post) that Edelman has botched the whole social media thing on WalMart?｢どｨび｢s behalf."
This seems rather odd to me. Considering how many people really do travel in RVs in the United States and do indeed use WalMart parking lots for overnight campign, why would Edelman choose to write their fake content rather than reaching out to this WalMart friendly RV driving community?
Keith, that sounds like a reasonable analysis. In the end, it's WalMart's blog afterall, so they would have final sign-off on the project.
Yes, it could have had far more impact if Edelman had instead recommended an open site for RVers parking at Walmart sites to post their experiences at one blog site/destination. Perhaps this would have appeared less contrived than with the one paid blogger and would have done more to represent Walmart's community spirit and goodwill philosophies.
It is likely that Walmart did not want to appear to be embracing RVers openly, which could have been viewed as encouraging overnight parking.
It's a balance. They appreciate RVers spending their money on Walmart goods when staying overnight, but don't want to encourage overnight parking and possibly have their parking lots overrun with RVers camping out for free (which would upset local campgrounds and parks).
Some Walmart parking lots can become like small towns at night, especially in remote places. When Rving to Alaska for a segment for our travel site, we found this to be the case when we spent a few nights at Walmarts.
Partially from a security standpoint and also to respond to local RV park concerns for the loss of business, some towns have gone as far as to prohibit overnight parking in parking lots.