Nothing says “we’re not a faceless corporation” like a corporate blog—unless that blog is launched by Dell and features product announcements and tours of the “Enterprise Command Center.”
After opening its new blog to the public last week (Name: one2one, Tag: “Direct conversations with Dell”), it didn’t take long for Dell to come in for a blogosphere tongue-lashing. Jeff Jarvis complained that “Dell isn’t listening. And listening, once more, is the first step in blogging.” Steve Rubel made the same critique, telling Dell to “Join us. Be real. Walk the talk.”
It didn’t take long for the complaints to get Dell’s attention. One2one’s newest post, put up only this morning, is headed “Real People are Here and We’re Listening.” To prove it, Lionel Menchaca, Digital Media Manager at the company, went on to provide links to the blog’s critics and said that Dell really, truly, actually wants to join the conversation. “We’re excited to be here,” Menchaca said, “and we welcome your ideas.”
Dell’s week-old experiment in corporate blogging illustrates the difficulties faced by companies who make the decision to engage in a public discussion of their products and their problems. There’s obviously a fine line to walk here between being open to talk about corporate weaknesses and driving away potential business, but one2one shows that the blogosphere has no time for corporations who simply want to use a blog as another PR outlet. To its credit, Dell seems to want more than this for the new site.
The question is whether a corporate blog can ever be more than a marketing site. At some level, such blogs unavoidably become marketing tools—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a company tries to make itself look better by listening to and interacting with customers, that’s the kind of marketing and PR push that we in the Orbiting HQ would like to see more often.
It usually works best when not pitched as an “official corporate blog,” and Microsoft has done a decent job of this with their MSDN blogs, which actively solicit developer feedback. Well-crafted blogs can humanize an organization, but they can also provide valuable, direct feedback from customers to developers and engineers. If done right, corporate blogs can help both the customers and the company. When treated as a traditional PR vehicle, nobody wins.