It’s tough to sell a paper that bashes your brand

lidl Today’s Aftonbladet had one of those frontpages that PR professionals have nightmares about: “Rotten garbage transported with [supermarket chain] Lidl’s fresh food”. And since I happened to visit my local Lidl store today, for about the third time ever, I had to check if they had the paper on display or if it was sold out (as in “thrown in the dumpster”). But there it was, right next to the check-out, screaming out its unfriendly message. Probably not an ideal situation for the poor cashier, but it earned Lidl a tiny bit of kudos in my eyes.

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Sweden’s Foreign Minister in legal trouble for blog comments

[Republished post, the original must have been accidentally deleted. Sorry for the inconvenience]

The blog of Sweden’s Foreign Minster Carl Bildt has become a question for Konstitutionsutskottet (KU), the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, writes Riksdag & Departement. Bildt’s blog is subject to an investigation by the prosecutor because Bildt did not remove hateful comments to some of his blog posts earlier this year. And before the prosecutor continues with the preliminary investigation, he wants KU to determine whether Bildt is blogging as a minister or as a private individual. If he is blogging as a minister, then KU will determine if he is to be prosecuted or not.

According to Swedish law it is the responsibility of the site owner to remove hateful comments “within reasonable time”. Bildt has declared that he knew about the comments and that he found them “very inappropriate”. But he did not remove them with the explanation that they were archived anyway. The comments were finally removed later in the spring.

Initially the blog was launched as a private blog, but when Bildt became a minister in the new right wing goverment he added a link to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ website which also registers all the posts on the blog as public documents.

During the 200 years that KU has existed it has only decided to prosecute a minister once, and that was in the 1850’s.

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Poor PR from Facebook

There has been a buzz recently in the blogosphere about Facebook and its implications for public relations. But what about the site’s own PR tactics? The last few days the social networking site has taken a few punches in Swedish media because users have put up fake profiles of famous Swedes. First, there was fashion journalist Sofi Fahrman who realized she had a very realistic profile on Facebook. Some of her closest friends had been invited to connect, only it wasn’t the real Fahrman who was behind the profile. Then the Swedish king, Carl XVI Gustaf, received the same treatment, even though it was quite easy to tell this one wasn’t the real thing. Today, the leading Swedish news site follows up with a new article, stating that Mona Sahlin (leader of the Social Democratic Party), Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, former Prime Minister Göran Persson and a bunch of other celebrities all have fake Facebook profiles.

Questions about identity theft and online security strike at the heart of social networking sites’ brands and can’t be neglected even if they’re from a small country in northern Europe. But when Dagens Nyheter and Aftonbladet try to get in touch with Facebook they get the silent treatment. No reply.

“DN has tried to reach Facebook for a comment, without success.”

“Aftonbladet has tried to get in touch with representatives of Facebook without getting a response.”

This is obviously a missed opportunity to manage this upcoming crisis situation. I expect that Facebook will need to increase their PR efforts if they want to continue to challenge MySpace in the social networing arena.

Footnote: Jeremy Pepper wrote about Facebook’s poor PR more than a year ago.

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One more take on the Edelman debacle

In the aftermath of the Working Families for Wal-Mart debacle, there has been a lot of talk about WOMMA’s code of ethics for online communications. Now PR Week writes (subscr. req.) that “Dell is becoming the largest company ever to formally adopt the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s (WOMMA’s) code of ethics for online and blog communications”.

And while we are on the Wal-Mart topic, the bad luck for Edelman doesn’t seem to come to an end. Via For Immediate Release podcast #190 I hear that when Edelman set up the organisation Working Families for Wal-Mart they didn’t register the domain with the same name. The organisation’s website can be found at The most logical domain,, was instead kidnapped by an anti-Wal-Mart organisation that launched a pretty good parody site. Particulary worth noting is how all the smiling faces in the original are replaced by sad ones in the parody.

Wal-Mart fake blog

Wal_Mart fake blog astroturfing


Edelman PR in fake blog controversy

PR agency Edelman has been under intense fire the last few days for being involved in a pro-Wal-Mart blog, but not being open about who the sponsor is. MediaPost writes about the blog called “Wal-Marting Across America”:

“The blog, launched Sept. 27, was profiled in this week’s issue of BusinessWeek, which exposed the site as a promotional tactic engineered by Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), an organization launched by Wal-Mart’s public relations firm Edelman. WFWM paid for the RV [Recreational Vehicle ]and all travel expenses, rerouted the trip’s original plan, and plastered a logo on the RV’s side. Though a banner ad announced WFWM sponsored the site, it did not divulge Wal-Mart paid for the couple’s RV, gas, food and other expenses.”

fake walmart blog

It took a few days until Richard Edelman responded with an apology.

“I want to acknowledge our error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers from the outset. This is 100% our responsibility and our error; not the client’s.”

Constantin Basturea has a good set of comments from the PR blogosphere. See also Kevin O’Keefe.

[Cartoon: courtesy of Gaping Void.]