In my previous post about Naked Conversations, I mentioned two schools of PR that Scoble and Israel believe are in practice today. One is the command-and-control school in which PR professionals believe that they should keep communicating they way they have been and perhaps add a little spin to make the company look better. The second school, which is also referred to as the new school, subscribes to a listen-and-participate philosophy. Those PR professionals who follow this philosophy believe in taking a conversational approach by listening and responding to consumers’ needs.

Jeff Jarvis has a great post that demonstrates these two schools of communication. Amanda Chapel, a PR professional gets into a heated debate with Jarvis regarding his previous post about his dissatisfaction with Dell. Amanda’s arguments are basically consistent with the command-and-control school of communication. She argues:

He (Michael Dell) should care about a good product and an identified market. That does NOT necessarily mean individual customers… You have one vote. I suggest you don’t buy Dell. Period. Anything more than that is an attempt to hold Dell and its shareholder hostage. We don’t owe you anything!

Why care about individual customers? Well, I think this is obvious, individual customers together equal a collective of customers, which then equals Dell’s meal ticket. It’s scary to think that this woman is a PR professional giving advice to corporations. Amanda goes on to argue that:

You (Jeff Jarvis) grossly overestimate the value of the customer relationship. Excuse me, businesses don’t really want “relationships” with their customers. It’s too expensive, it’s too messy and the return is nominal at best. Not even the most prolific hooker wants a personal relationship. Our job is to provide needs/wants/desires and then present clients with something special. If I did my homework, I will be rewarded; if not, I will be punished. The money is on the dresser. End of transaction.

OUCH!!! To some extent, Amanda has a point. Businesses should not be concerned about building a personal relationship with customers. They should be more concerned about building a business relationship. Today is my birthday. If I had a Dell Computer (which after reading this I am glad I don’t!!), I would not care if they called to wish me a happy birthday. However, I would care if a Dell representative cared about my issue with its product when I call it’s technical support line. See the difference? If Dell is the type of company that believes the transaction is over once the money is paid and the product leaves the store, then I will think twice about recommending a Dell computer to my mother.

Dell has a potential blog swarm on its hands. Richard Edelman weighed in on Jarvis’ issues with Dell on his blog. Apparently, in a previous posting, an intern from GCI (a PR firm representing Dell) took a few stabs at Jarvis for his views on Dell. Edelman argued:

This arrogant and ill informed foray into the blogosphere only hurts those of us trying to move beyond hack flackery and into substantive dialogue that respects opposing views and gives consumers all the facts.

Amen. Maybe Dell should be an Edelman client :-)

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