Dell's Online E-ssentials
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Dell's Online E-ssentials

As public concerns about Internet privacy and security began to surface in 2000, Dell saw an opportunity to take the lead in educating consumers about the fundamentals of Internet safety, and more importantly give consumers the confidence they needed to e

Paul Holmes


As public concerns about Internet privacy and security began to surface in 2000, Dell Computer Corp. saw an opportunity to take the lead in educating consumers about the fundamentals of Internet safety, and more importantly give consumers the confidence they needed to enjoy a more positive Internet experience.  Dell turned to the National Consumers League (NCL) – one of the oldest and most influential consumer advocacy groups in the country – in August 2000 to create a partnership, research consumer concerns about Internet safety and security, and implement an educational campaign, Online E-ssentials, to dispel those fears and boost consumer confidence in the Internet.


By partnering with the National Consumers League, Dell was able to validate its efforts while positioning itself as an advocate for consumer Internet issues. 




To assess consumers’ current attitudes and potential misconceptions about the Internet, Dell and NCL commissioned an e-survey of 24 questions through Harris Interactive. The survey was conducted via the Harris Poll Online, within the United States, from August 30-31, 2000.  The poll, of 2,810 adults, aged 18 or over, documented consumers’ concerns about control of their personal information and about their children’s safety online. The survey revealed that those concerns kept consumers from taking full advantage of everything that the Internet offers. The results indicated that consumers needed more information to help them take control of their online experiences.




  • Position Dell as the Internet partner and advocate for consumers
  • Establish Dell as the “authority” among consumers on E-issues important to them
  • Build reputation as Internet safety and privacy advocate
  • Educate consumers to use the Internet more effectively
  • Build consumer confidence in the Internet




  • Develop sustainable themed campaign; leverage with media
  • Establish partnership between Dell’s internal divisions to leverage Dell resources and develop a consumer advocacy program
  • Partner with third-party consumer organization to build program credibility





Forming a partnership with the National Consumer League was the first step in adding credibility and driving awareness of the program. Dell, as an Internet infrastructure leader, was able to provide the Internet expertise and educational collateral, but leaned on NCL’s reputation as a consumer watchdog to boost consumer confidence. 


Harris Interactive commissioned an online survey, at the request of Dell and NCL, to assess consumer’s attitudes and beliefs about the Internet.  The survey focused on three Internet “E-ssentials” topics, including safety, privacy and security. The survey also sought to examine whether or not those attitudes and concerns inhibited the online experience.  The results indicated that consumers were concerned about their online safety and privacy and that those concerns did prevent some consumers from fully benefiting from the Internet.


An “Online E-ssentials” Web site,, was created by Dell to serve as educational reference for consumers interested in learning the E-ssentials of Internet safety, privacy and security, including how to read privacy statements, how to determine if a Web site is secure before sharing credit card information and how to make the Internet a family-friendly activity.  In addition, it offers a download version of a brochure/guide, a glossary of Internet terms and links to non-profit and governmental agencies that also provide suggestions for safe Internet use.  The Online E-ssentials Web site has links from both the NCL homepage and from 


An “Online E-ssentials” brochure was produced by Dell for distribution to consumers and elementary schools.  The brochure, a consumer’s guide to Internet safety, privacy and security, offers practical tips on the E-ssentials topics.  The brochure encourages consumers to visit the E-ssentials Web site, and a copy of the brochure is available for download on the site.


Media outreach to announce the Dell’s E-ssentials program on Oct. 4, 2000 in Washington D.C. included a joint satellite media tour, a teleconference, a Web cast and a national press release with National Consumer League representatives. Utilizing these various public relations tactics, Dell drew substantial media attention to the E-ssentials Web site and ultimately increased consumer awareness on Internet safety, privacy and security.   




More than 20 major market television stations carried or taped the tour – including CBS MarketWatch – with a confirmed audience reach of 662,000 viewers.


An interview with Dell’s John Hamlin, the vice president of Dell Consumer, aired hourly on CBS Network Radio the day of launch and was also featured in the CBS syndicated program, the Osgood File.


National print stories ran on and in the San Francisco Chronicle


Since the launch of the E-ssentials Web site, visitors have downloaded more than 15,000 copies of the online educational brochure. 


The program enabled Dell’s Consumer division to partner internally with its Public Affairs and Employee Communications divisions to help generate awareness of the efforts both internally to customer service employees in addition to legislative contacts in Washington.

Dell is planning to commission a survey in Fall 2001 to determine if attitudes have changed, or if Internet safety, privacy and security remain top concerns among consumers.

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