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March 30, 2009



by stevenwyer

Learn from a big business experience. Do you remember a phenomenon referred to in the media as “Dell Hell”?

Dell Hell resulted because a single person–who happened to be a blogger–had a very bad experience. Jeff Jarvis was upset with Dell Computers. In true blogger style he documented his experience on a blog and word quickly spread to the point where it was covered in print by Business Week magazine.

Dell, however, failed to respond to his rant and so his bad customer experiences continued as did the negative comments on the blogosphere. And what happened next was hell for Dell. Their reputation worldwide suffered enormous damage. A coveted reputation for great customer service turned quickly into fodder for late night television humor.

The cost not just to their reputation, but also to shareholder value, was astounding. A study reported on showed that Dell sustained long-term damage to its brand and that the culprits for the poor reputation of Dell’s customer services were bloggers!

So, what can you do? If an online mention is negative, but true, then find a conduit to present your side of the story and try as hard as you can to keep it offline. A phone call, a meeting, or if need be a letter, are all viable. If you are civil, the author may consider removing the post or at least adding information that will help you.

Beyond this, step back and get a plan so that you aren’t caught off guard again. Utilize blogs, forums and social online networks to present information about you, your company or your family that reflect true character. Unless the bad publicity and false information is countered, the assumptions that will be made are likely to cause you long-term injury.

And you may never know exactly just how. Most people simply “google” someone, look at the information on the first page and then draw their own conclusions without verifying the source. By proactively addressing bad information, you can protect your online reputation now and in the future.

–by Steven C. Wyer


1 Comment
  1. rosswords
    Mar 30 2009

    That’s a well written and informative blog post, Steve.

    I’m sure that the Dell Hell experience inspired many companies (big and small) to start monitoring their reputations more carefully.

    Protecing a reputation applies to individuals as well. A while back, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Julia Angwin. She wrote about a story she’d written years earlier, a story that she wasn’t all that proud of.

    That story kept appearing at the top of the heap when she Googled herself. She had to figure out a way to bury that unfavourable story under stories that were more to her liking. She eventually succeeded, but it required some effort.

    If you can find Julie’s article online, it’s worth a read.



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