I’ve written about braided journalism, my concept that traditional and citizen journalists have started to intertwine through mutual need.
Take that thought and add to it Tom Foremski’s recurring theme that every company is now a media company. Every company can publish content and serve it up top people relevant to that company. I believe that Tom is on to something that is very important and will change the nature of corporate conversations with customers.
Now comes Dell. They have done some braiding with journalists in a way that I had not thought about. They have moved more toward becoming a media company than any other enterprise that I have heard about.
The result is something called The Power to do More . At first glance, it looks pretty much like another big company website. But when you look a little closer, it looks more like an online magazine. Then there’s one more piece, one that is important to me.
I was one of four freelance journalists called into this project. Each of us have years of experience working for established business publications or writing books. Each of us has covered Dell in the past and we have done it from the step back a journalist takes in reporting.
However, there is little doubt in my mind that what we wrote independently shed favorable light on Dell. For example, I wrote an entire chapter in Twitterville about Dell’s pioneer role in making Twitter appealing to established business.
So we four writers got contracted to come to Austin, where we were assembled in a room. Key players in seven of Dell’s most promising areas came in and talked about what they were doing. We asked the same kind of questions, we might have asked as reporters.
At the end of the day, each of us pitched Dell’s PR department and agency for stories we would like to write–just like each of us has done with editors earlier in our career.
Then we got assignments along with tough deadlines and were sent home to write, research and conduct followup interviews. We filed our stories with the PR department rather than the editors, and we had agreed that Dell would have final say in what was written.
I was nervous about that last provision. I have had traditional editors botch my copy, never mind PR folk payed to sell, where I only wanted to tell. In fact, the editing was superb. They tightened and cleaned up my language and I am extremely happy with the results of the stories I wrote.
Between the four of us, we contributed over 20 items. This was integrated with original content for executives at Dell. I like the result far more than I thought I would. I’m pretty proud to have been part of this braided team.
Of course, there is room for improvement. For one thing, the site needs to be updated on a regular basis just like any other ‘zine. And it needs to become a lot more social.
For me, I hope it opens the door to a new part of how I make a living. I am hoping many companies follow Dell’s lead and I hope I am part of the outside team that gets to contribute content that is respected for the credibility of the outside perspective it brings.