When Dell announced that it was going to form its own internal communications agency, my initial reaction was that it was interesting, and probably made sense from both an economic and consistency in messaging standpoint.
Many large companies work with several, if not dozens, of different agencies. (The Dell blog post on this announcement says that they were working with 800 agencies worldwide when they started this project.) The governmental affairs division might work with a D. C.-based firm, internal communications with another, and so on. As blogger relations/social media work becomes more and more a part of a company’s overall communications work, from a consistency standpoint it would make sense to have it all under one roof. As we’ve seen, there are some agencies that get social media, some that don’t, and a whole lot that fall somewhere in between. Doing blogger relations right in one area just to get called out on it in another simply because the two agencies you are engaged with address it with different levels of competence is disheartening to say the least.
The economic factor is likely clear-cut. This wouldn’t have happened if Dell didn’t run the numbers and decide that this was the less costly route to take.
What is less clear to me is if Dell is truly going to get everything they need under one roof. Some agencies excel at a small piece of the overall pie. I look at this like I look at grocery shopping: you can get your basics and meet your needs at the local store, but if you want something special and out of the ordinary, you’ll have to diversify. Drive the extra few miles for the specialty cheeses. Go to the Farmer’s Market for the perfectly ripe tomatoes.
It is an interesting experiment, and I am sure many other large companies will be watching closely. The long-term implications for advertising, marketing, and communications firms could be significant.