I always like to sit back and watch big stories play out over a period of time. It helps with perspective, both in my own thoughts as well as gauging what other people are saying, not to mention letting all the facts and backstory come in.
The latest story that’s been cycling through my Bloglines feeds is that of Dell’s entry into the blogosphere. So many people commented on it it bordered on earth shaking. You’d think that God Himself had started a blog. After all, both He and Dell have been silent for many years. Both basically told their stakeholders how to communicate with them (prayer and customer service calls respectively) and told people if that didn’t help refer to the instruction manuel for further help.
There were two posts from the PR blog cul-de-sac that went beyond pointing out the initial shortcomings of Dell’s blog. The most constructive was, unsurprisingly, from Shel Holtz. He actually recommended taking a deep breath and not chiding Dell over what was, essentially, an opening night performance. He references a couple of A-lister type bloggers who demanded that Dell fit into their vision of what a blog from the company should look like. Holtz even highlights Dell’s policy on approving and posting blog comments. The policy is, in short, to approve anything that’s on-topic, delete the stuff that’s overly inflammatory and send specific problems or issues to customer service instead of dealing with it on the blog. That’s a sound policy. The blog is not the place to deal with everyone’s problems with their laptops. It’s inefficient and not setup for that purpose so trying to do so would only lead to problems. Besides, blog comments are – to my mind at least – places to comment. They are not places to recount past corporate misjudgements and ask for clarification. If that’s what you’re looking for, seek out the media relations person and get them on the record.
The idea that Dell – or any other company – is going to hit the ground running with a blog that immediately meets all the expectations of people who have been blogging for years and learning as they go along is ludicrous. For all those who critized the first couple posts on the Dell blog, I’d like you to go back to the first couple posts you put up and see how much ground you really have to stand on. I’m actually embarressed to do that and so avoid at all costs telling people they’re not doing it right from the start.
BusinessWeek does a nice job of detailing both the Dell blog and corporate blogging in general. MediaPost also passes on numbers saying over three quarters of companies with corporate blogs are satisfied with them. The main advantages are increased web traffic and media mentions, both of which are good things in case you were wondering.
Starting a corporate blog can be scary for a lot of companies. The backlash against Dell’s efforts pretty much show that a lot of that fear is justified. Despite that the positives that can be had from establishing a presence do outweigh the bad. Blogging is a learning experience. Yes, you can draw on the lessons of others, but it still takes time to find an identity, a voice and a true mission for the blog. Work at, and be open about the process and it will likely work out in the end.
Oh, I forgot my other favorite blog post about Dell. It’s from J-Pepp.