Michael Barbaro of the New York Times writes about Walmart's efforts to enlist the help of bloggers:
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.
Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.
But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.
What is different about Wal-Mart's approach to blogging is that rather than promoting a product — something it does quite well, given its $300 billion in annual sales — it is trying to improve its battered image.