Dear Blogosphere: Give Dell a Break

Last week, Dell soft launched a corporate blog, Dell One2One. It is a multi-author blog (like the one you are reading now) that focuses pretty heaviliy so far on the website and technology. A few critics have been quick out of the gate telling them everything wrong about this blog. Jeff Jarvis‘s post seems particularly snarky, but you know he must have been thrilled to have any reason to reference his troubles with Dell from last summer that he leveraged not to help other customers, but to intensify his own fame. Steve Rubel comments that maybe Dell should have stayed silent. Is that the message we want to send to corporations interested in engaging in conversation with their customers? If you aren’t going to be perfect at launch, don’t try? That’s certainly not the message I want them to hear. I would be willing to wager that Jarvis and Rubel improved iteratively and Dell will too.
Here’s the interesting part. What did Dell do with these unconstructive posts from “professional bloggers”? They linked to them. I’ll write that one more time because I find it so amazing – THEY LINKED TO THEM. This act alone indicates to me that Dell has made massive massive strides towards transparency and at least wants to join the conversation. As a former Dell marketer, I can tell you that a quarter ago, Dell had a policy against blogging and now they are not just facilitating a blog, but linking to critics. That is not a baby step, but real progress. Could the Dell blog be improved by fleshing out the personality of the authors, discussing the business overall, and directly talking about what they have done to address some of the issues that have plagued them? Sure. Is the tone a little nerdy because of the technical info? Yes, but its authentically Dell and isn’t that the point of this whole blogging thing? The blog even has a “suggestion box” for folks like me to send these comment directly to them.

To Dell and any other F50 thinking of getting in this game: Jump on in, the water is fine. The blogosphere is still young, we are learning as we go and you can too.

To bloggers riding the “I hate Dell” wave: Wont life be more interesting if they join the conversation? Not every blogger comes out of the womb perfect like you.

To everyone criticizing Dell One2One because Michael isn’t writing: As a stockholder, I don’t want him agonizing over his next post – I want him travelling the world engaging with the best business minds trying to figure out how to get Dell shares out of the $20’s.

And, while I’m at it To Speakers at Conferences thinking about Referencing “Dell Hell”: Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past year has heard the story. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. It makes you look dated. Unless you have a financial tie to Jeff Jarvis, look for another example if you want to look current.

  • John Bell

    I couldn’t agree more. Dell is doing many things right. If you have ever launched a corporate blog either for a client or yourself (we have) you know it is a process. You will never launch with exactly all the right pieces in place. The point is to learn and grow along the way. And be willing to behave as if you were in an intersting conversation with a colleague (or a friend, even). The enthusiasm of bloggers at the Dell blog will shine through. I give them cred for jumping in.

    I am also tired of the Dell Hell case (before that it was Kryptonite). We have to be more creative if we are really going to shed any insight for our clients and peers. that’s why I am spending time on the Idea Bar category of my own blog. I would rather spin good ideas (hopefully) about what organizations can actually do to positively engage in the new new media space, than trudge out the same old tired stories and abstractions (by the way, I love Fiskateers!)

  • Clyde Smith

    That’s a really nicely done post.

    I tend to corporate bash myself but I think you’re totally right on in so many ways. Definitely something for me to think about the next time somebody big tries to join in the coversation that bloggers advocate.

    You’re so right about linking to their critics. That’s major. And it was interesting to see Scoble referenced in their last post as giving them that advice. I always felt he got a much harder time than he deserved while blogging at Microsoft and he’s a great example of somebody that opened up a major corporation to reveal the people inside.

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  • Dan S

    I agree tentatively with you. While a blog is a nice step, it is a first step, and perhaps just a baby step. What will be more daunting is actually addressing the culture that has seeped into the company. Often when a company grows to such an enormous size they lose the “hunger” that got them there and become fat and lazy. As someone who has purchased Dell equipment in the past I would like to dip the proverbial toe back in with some additional purchases, although I would have to see if the changes are fundamental or just cosmetic. Time will tell, I guess

  • Virginia

    Dan- I hear you. My overarching point is simply that I want to encourage corporations to start taking those baby steps instead of discouraging it. And I also know that for Dell and the culture, this was a difficult and large step.

    I spoke in my post on Monday about some current structural challenges that Dell has when it comes to creating emotional connections with customers. Throwing up a blog isn’t a panacea, but I do think its a positive (and non-lazy :-) step in the right direction.

  • Dan S

    Well Virginia, I guess we will have to agree to disagree on the blogs. Everyone, except me, has a blog. So, it isn’t too hard to put together a blog. But (and this is a huge one), what they do with the blog will determine whether or not the company is really sincere in getting back on track (full disclosure I also own quite a few shares of Dell stock — sigh). If they are going to just focus the blog on all their great new products — boo. If the people from the company who are posting the first two days start to dissipate — boo again. But, if this is demonstrated as a step for the company to really change its corporate cultrue, become more responsive to its consumers, then great. We will have to see what course they will take.

  • paul

    Terrific discussion.

    To me, Dell’s embracing of blog-land and linking to negative-boo-sayers (and as with any large corpaoration there will be a percentage of these expected) reveals something like this:

    > we know we have some issues
    > we’re listening to, and conversing about, the good and bad – with customers and constituents alike

    (one could even infer DELL’s direct recognition of the first step towards changing any problem – awareness/acceptance).

    So, the blog goes towards revealing action on the above in a very DIRECT way – per their brand — their position in the marketplace is about “buying direct”, so “being direct” or at least appearing direct, is crucial.

    Perception is king – and still, those that have real beefs aren’t often swayed by conversations and blogs. But someone is surely interested and working on turning the DELL boat. It takes loss and trouble for big companies to consider changing course — and it’s crucial that companies consider their prescriptive changes within a framework of their own value propositions and market positions (which do not always need to be changed but rather re-interpretted). These frameworks have been strategically developed and represent in the minds of their buyers what the companies stand for. They’re like GPS coordinates on a sea of offers.

  • David Armano

    I soooooooo agree. The blogoshpere needs to lighten up. Bigtime.

    BTW, happy to see BOF blogging. There aren’t many agencies out there that blog.

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  • Tom Jelen, Chicago, Illinois

    Note: From the Dell blog…. Conversation is encouraged and expected. However, moderation of comments is necessary to prevent spam, profanity and off-topic commentary. Comments related to specific product support or customer service issues will be addressed separately rather than posted here. Please use the links in Contact Us for product and customer service assistance.

    This is all I need to read. It’s at the end of a Dell company Blog.
    Dell does not stand by the product they make! nor do they want comments that are negative about their customer service. The ViPs are all out to lunch and counting the money they suckered off the public. My XPS stands for xtra Piece of ____, crimped cables, a Hitachi 500gb(not covered) crashed drive, the LCD monitor has fingerprints and dirt inside the screen, electrical shorts with the media reader, dvdrw that doesn’t work and not recognized the CD writer is in the same sinking cheap part boat. The machine hasn’t worked properly since day one. Sometimes I think they sent me somebody’s return.
    No Way in Hell buy a Dell. There’s a saying about the fool and his money, Don’t be a Victim and don’t buy their advertising. The Dell people could care one ioda about the consumer. I thought I was purchasing a top of the line machine and when the drive crashed 10 days out of warranty the tech found a cut cable, when he went into the machine to replace the drive, he also told me he had six XPS’s sitting on the work bench waiting for their shoddy parts to be sent from the factory. SAVE YOURSELF the TROUBLE and purchase a Sony or Compact anything but Dell and don’t say you haven’t been warned. Call customer service and see how your treated, Ill tell you quickly, anyone on the other side of the world could care less about your computer, and the problems your having, any executive from Dell that reads this I do have pity on you, your company stinks, its a good thing you people don’t make airplanes or cars….. Service Tag 2LYPZ71 Tjelen ……………..
    Like Mister ‘T’ says ‘I PITTY THE FOOL’

  • Dell

    I couldn’t agree more with your article. Well said indeed