Dell head of digital media and comms EMEA Kerry Bridge told delegates at this week's PRWeek Social Networking & Blogging Conference that the company had been forced to rethink its comms strategy since the blog scandal now known as 'Dell Hell' erupted almost two years ago.
In one of the first instances of a blogger influencing the news agenda - and a corporation's share price - US comms consultant Jeff Jarvis vented his anger at Dell's poor customer service on his BuzzMachine blog. His post was read by thousands and attracted the attention of national media in both the US and the UK.
By the time the print media reported on 'Dell Hell', the company share price had fallen 42 per cent (PRWeek, 22 June 2006).
The initial incident was followed by a much-publicised battery recall and a damaging posting on the Consumerist.com blog entitled 'Confessions of a Former Dell Manager'.
These three incidents left Dell's reputation in tatters, according to Bridge. 'We lost sight of the importance of conversations with customers,' she said. 'The ramifications could take us ten years to overcome.'
Bridge added that as a result of 'Dell Hell', the company now had a whole team dedicated to online outreach. 'We're targeting key online digital influencers and we are no longer treating bloggers as lower-tier journalists,' she said.
TNS Media Intelligence director Philip Lynch said that Dell's decision to start blogging in response to customer outcry was not just prudent but necessary.
'People will talk about it regardless,' he told delegates. 'Dell can only look to establish some positive influence, whether it is rebuttal or advocacy. But if you don't say it, someone else will.'