Dell to embrace new WOMMA ethical standards

ROUND ROCK, TX: 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.

ROUND ROCK, TX: 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.

The company announced Thursday that it will be incorporating WOMMA's guidelines, which were just released last week, into its own code of conduct. The standards will apply to Dell's agencies as well.

Among the guidelines for online communications are standards for transparency of origin, accuracy, ethical conduct, and protection of confidential information. In a release, the company said it is "committed to taking corrective action if Dell employees fail to comply with the policy."

Dell's uptake of the ethics guidelines, combined with the launch of its own blog in July, marks a dramatic shift for the company in blog relations. Dell had previously been pilloried in the blogosphere for not responding to complaints from well-read bloggers regarding customer service issues.

But John Hamlin, Dell SVP of global online business and brand marketing, said the move was proactive, not in reaction to any problems Dell has had. Online sales are worth $16 billion per year to the company, a fact he said "reinforce[s] the importance of, and need for, transparency and honesty online."

WOMMA CEO Andy Sernovitz said that the significance of Dell's announcement was its explicit embrace of the ethical code. He also praised Dell's commitment to teaching all of its employees how to communicate ethically online.

"It is clear that not all companies identify who they are [online]," said Bob Pearson, Dell's VP of corporate communications. "We thought, let's take a lead role and say exactly what we think should be done."

WOMMA's blog communications ethics standards, released in the wake of the uproar over Edelman's improperly disclosed blog for Wal-Mart, apply to members of the association only. But Sernovitz has said that he is actively seeking large companies to adopt the guidelines as well, because their leverage with vendors and employees alike will help lead to the standards' widespread implementation.

DuPont is the only other Fortune 100 company that has publicly pledged to adhere to WOMMA's ethical policies, both in-house and for vendors.

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