Controversial Clients: Too hot to handle?

If you take on controversial clients, you’d better be sure that the people in your company are onside. If you fail to do this, disaster lies ahead.

That’s where Eric Portelance, Sean Howard and I come down in this week’s Social Mediators. We revisit the question of how consulting organizations should decide whether to take on a potentially controversial client.

Sean believes that the decision about a controversial client can be a defining moment for a company. Indeed, the decision will affect both the external perception and the internal self-image of the company.

Eric argues that companies need to first determine whether their employees will want to work for the potentially controversial client. People should not be compelled to work on issues that conflict with their personal beliefs.

I suggest that this is one of those issues on which senior executives should be mindful that their own preferences must be balanced by staff preferences. Eric asks, Will the new client be consistent with the image of the company that employees themselves have.

How will existing clients view the new relationship? Every company must be sensitive to how existing clients react. Do clients hire us to accomplish a specific mandate or do they have a claim on other parts of our professional lives?

Our bottom line: In the era of the social web, when we all need to be authentic, it’s just not viable to say, let’s take all clients. It won’t pass the social sniff test. People will see you as a gun for hire, open to the highest bidder. And that’s not the way any of us would want to be seen.

As Sean Howard says: “Your decision shouldn’t be made out of fear. It should be made out of conviction.”

Would you, should you, take that client?

Social Mediators: It's SNO-ing Shiny New Objects

Never say never. It’s been a long time coming. But the Social Mediators video podcast has restarted after a lengthy hiatus.

Terry Fallis and I are both back. We joined by two newcomers to Social Mediators – Sean Howard and Eric Portelance – and we’re missing one. During the hiatus, Dave Fleet left us. But we’re hoping that he feels welcome to join us whenever he can make it to the “studio” for a recording session.

Why has it been so long between episodes? Because video requires much more concentrated effort to produce than do other media. Not only do we need to agree on the content, but we must gather everyone in one place at one time. Not an easy task when you’re asking people to take time away from their day jobs to participate in what is essentially a hobby.

But we’re back and committed to make it a weekly date.

In this first episode of the New Year, Eric, Terry and I talk about the Shiny New Objects that we spent our time with over the Christmas break: KoboDiigoFlipboardPulseReeder,Reader and, of course, Tablets.

Social Mediators 9: Promoting a book with social media

Recently, Terry Fallis found both of his novels – the Leacock Award winning The Best Laid Plans and the soon to be published The High Road – in the top five of the iTunes Literature podcasts. In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Dave Fleet and I talk with Terry about how he and his publisher, McClelland & Stewart, are using social media to find and cultivate a fan base for Terry’s novels.

Also up for discussion this week: Social media adoption still isn’t universal among communicators.

Do you think social media is just a niche expertise or should it be a core skill set for all professional communicators?

Social Mediators 8 – What do you want from a conference?

It’s conference season. And we’ve all gone to conferences that we loved – and conferences that we hated.

In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I discuss what makes a good conference experience – and what can ruin a conference.

One good idea and I’m happy

I don’t just attend conferences because I love Las Vegas hotels (I don’t) or seaside resorts (I do.) I take time out of our schedules for much more practical and worthwhile reasons. I want to hear from leading edge thinkers and network with others who share common interests.

I’m happy if one simple need is met: I want at least one good new idea from each speaker. If I get that, the conference is worthwhile. If not, I’ll exercise the law of two feet and head out to do some work.

So, I’m easy to please. Give me great content and I’m a happy camper.

My personal hit list

Now to the other side. Things that detract from the conference experience. As a frequent conference attendee, there are some things that really bug me.

1) The conference within a conference. By invitation-only dinners and get aways for speakers and sponsors that are obvious to paying participants. We pay good money for a conference. We don’t want to feel like second class participants.

2) The conference with an unstated agenda. The worst of these are conferences that bring business together with government. You can get the feeling that you’re merely a prop in someone else’s GR campaign.

3) Panellists who think that they’ve given value merely by showing up. Conferences like SxSW which use a panel picker have seen a real slide in the quality of many panels, as a noticeable number of panelists seem to place their greatest effort into campaigning to be selected, not in preparing their presentations.

4) The biggest annoyance of all: Product pitches from sponsors who become speakers. When I speak, I rarely mention my company name. I’m there to educate, not to do a product pitch from the stage. And I don’t expect others to abuse their time on the stage.

And what about you?

What makes a conference a good experience for you?

What are the things that detract from the conference-going experience?

Eqentia – a new social media monitoring tool for enterprises

Eqentia is a social media startup headquartered in Toronto Canada. In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Eqentia’s CEO and Founder, William Mougayar, joins Dave Fleet and me for a discussion about Eqentia, what it does, who its aimed at and future plans for it.

Eqentia is positioning itself as a team-based knowledge dashboard that can be managed by one or two users, freeing others from the need to set up and refine searches. William hopes that managers will turn to it each day to answer the question, “What’s new that I need to know about?”

Eqentia’s text mining engine promises to deliver content to users in near realtime, providing them with an up to the minute picture of conversations and references to their brands and issues of interest.

William sees Eqentia becoming a productivity tool for medium and large enterprises. Initially, power users can curate the content to ensure that the highest relevance and most valuable content is featured, saving time and effort for the rest of the team. Once the principal user has set up the tool and refined the settings so that it focuses on the company’s specific interests, other team members will have access to the data without the need to manage the sources, relevancies and advanced filters and settings that make all of this possible.

Eqentia will be most attractive to teams that have both power users and executives who don’t care about how to use the tool, but just want to see its output. The power users can publish the information in user-friendly form for the end users – via email, Twitter, RSS feeds, or by giving end users access to individual topics.

Unlike many other social media tools that focus on providing users with the ability to build folksonomies by applying multiple tags, Eqentia incorporates predefined taxonomies to standardize searches and make it easy for end users to find the same data set with a simple search.

Still to come in Eqentia’s development – a comprehensive approach to social media metrics.

The company has some potential client deals in the works and hopes to be able to begin to announce these in the near future.

Eqentia has been seed funded by Extreme Venture Partners, who also funded Bump Top, which was recently acquired by Google. William says that he had the funding to carry on with the development of the product and to explore its marketing potential.

Have you tried Eqentia? What are your thoughts about it?

Social Mediators 6 – Living with the iPad; Living with less PR podcasting

In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I talk about some of the limitations of the iPad and changes to two of the longest running PR podcasts – Inside PR and For Immediate Release.

OK. OK. The iPad is selling like hotcakes. But I still think that Steve Jobs has made a mistake with the product by limiting its usefulness for content creation. Dave Fleet thinks that “Steve Jobs has always done  – what Steve Jobs wants to do.” Terry doesn’t see it as a mistake and expects that Apple will sell a “whack of them.” I think that the iPad takes us back to the era of creators and consumers. And I hope that competitors will push Apple to do better.

Also, after four years and 200 episodes of Inside PR, Terry Fallis and David Jones have given up podcasting. Martin Waxman will carry on with new co-hosts. Why did Terry quit? Partly fatigue. But also a sense that the show needs to be refreshed, that it will benefit from an infusion of new ideas.

We also talk about the changes to the longest running PR podcast – For Immediate Release – as Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson announced that they’ve cut back from two shows a week to a weekly podcast. FIR is a must listen for Terry, Dave and I and we’re glad that Shel and Neville are carrying on.

Social Mediators 5 – Jeremy Wright and SxSW

It’s only episode 5 and already we’ve broken the Social Mediators mold. Neither Dave Fleet nor I could be part of this week’s session. So, Terry Fallis recruited Jeremy Wright to stand in for both of us.

In this week’s episode, Jeremy talks with Terry about the South by SouthWest Interactive conference (SxSW) in Austin and what has drawn Jeremy to attend 7 times in the past 10 years. And for Jeremy, it’s the open culture of the conference – the friendliness of people and the fact that the meetings and encounters in the hallways can be much better than what takes place in the formal sessions.

You’ll hear them talk about the fact that I too would be at SxSW. Well, it didn’t happen. The night before I was supposed to leave, I spilled a glass of wine on my computer and I had to head home to Ottawa to meet the “man from Dell.” He showed up in my office Friday with a new mother board, touchpad, screen and keyboard (yes, the Complete Care insurance was worth every penny I paid for it.) But if you’ve ever tried to get a last minute flight to Austin during SxSW, you’d know why I never made it there. Having missed my originally scheduled flight, I was out of luck.

One more thing. A big thank you to Mike Edgell for recording and editing this week’s episode. Although he’s on the road the entire week for a video shoot, Mike found the extra time to produce Social Mediators. Thanks Mike for service above and beyond.

Social Mediators 4 – Social Media in Government and Automated Sentiment Analysis

In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I talk about government and social media as well as the measurement of sentiment in social media.

Terry suggests that government departments seem to be lagging government agencies, with their narrower focus and specific mandates. Government has found it difficult to leave shed the command and control approach to management. And this holds them back from engaging in the give and take of social media. Dave offers, “Social media is really built on trust and that’s something that is lacking in government.” Terry adds, “Government often moves in geological time and it’s hard to move into social media in that environment.”

We also talk about machine measurement of sentiment in social media. Dave feels that the tools aren’t up to scratch. He offers props to the approach taken by Radian6, who offer automated sentiment measurement, but counsel that it’s just a starting point and that most organizations will want to add a layer of human review to any critical analyses.

We conclude the episode with the idea of running a comparative test of the automated sentiment solutions offered by Radian6 and Sysomos.

Organizations and people mentioned in this episode:

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner

The Ombudsman of Ontario

Parks Canada

Genome Alberta and Mike Spears

Nick Charney

Ralph Mercer

Advanced Learning Institute‘s Conference on Social Media in Government



Social Mediators 3 – Privacy and Personal Brand

The calendar in Toronto has been packed with social media events. In this week’s Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I talk about our takeaways from PodCamp Toronto 2010 and Personal Brand Camp 2.

Over 900 people attended PodCamp Toronto. It has become a huge event on the annual calendar. Dave Fleet talks about how Brad Buset, Miranda McCurlie and Dave Bradfield highlighted privacy and the impact of what we share online. We talk about learning from personal experience and the importance of using common sense. Of course, no discussion of this would be complete without reference to Please Rob Me.  Dave bottom lines the discussion, “Be careful, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be out there.”

Terry, David Jones and Martin Waxman also recorded two episodes of the InsidePR podcast at PodCamp. These should be posted this week and next.

All three of us participated as Mentors in Personal Brand Camp. We all were struck by how the students were struggling with the concept. We advised them to think of their online brand as an expression of who they really are. Not some artificial contrivance. I argue that people should try to find their passion and then to share their views. Everyone has something unique and special to say about the things they are passionate about. Picking up a can of Pepsi, Terry suggested that ” This is a brand. You are a person.” and urged that their personal brand “needs to revealed, not manufactured.”

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Social Mediators 2 – Are you always one of us?

In this week’s Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I talk about corporate online communications polices and then delve into the case of the Toronto Transit Commission’s handling of their social media crisis.

Following my post of the new Thornley Fallis Online Communcations Policy, I received an unusual spike of traffic on ProPR. Over 1,300 pageviews on a Sunday, which is normally my lowest traffic day, followed by an increase the next day to over 1,500 pageviews. This, compared to the couple hundred pageviews on an average day. When I checked my Google Analytics, I saw the source of the traffic: MetaFilter. My post was the subject of a pretty heated discussion, focusing especially on my admonition to employees to be mindful that

Each of us represents the company to the world and the character of the company is defined by our beliefs and actions. We must be mindful of this when participating in social media and any kind of online communications.
You may be active in social media on your own account. That’s good. But please remember that whether you are on your own time or company time, you’re still a member of our team. And the judgment you exercise on your own time reflects on the judgment you exercise at work. There’s only one you – at play and at work.

Terry and Dave weigh in with their own view about this in our Social Mediators discussion. Dave suggests that guidelines and policies need to be closely tied to the prevailing company culture. He likens social media guidelines to a “safety net.” Terry suggest that it goes both ways. If you do something that reflects negatively upon your employer, it most likely also reflects negatively on you as an individual. “Once something bad happens”, adds Dave, “it’s like the toothpaste is already out of the tube.”

The TTC found itself facing a series of citizen criticism that started with a picture of a subway ticket taker asleep on the job and a bud driver who stopped his bus mid-trip for a coffee break. Management sent an email to employees suggesting  that “you and you alone are responsible for your actions” and the employees fired back at the public. The damage has been done. We discuss whether it’s too late for the TTC to recover.

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Sites referred to in this episode:

Marketers Miss the Mark with Twitter, Mitch Joel

TTC Staffer caught apparently sleeping on job, National Post

Alleged TTC napper under investigation, National Post

TTC union shocked at uncaring response of riders to “sleeping” staffer, National Post

Second photo emerges of another alleged TTC napper, National Post

About Social Mediators

Each week, Joseph ThornleyTerry Fallis and Dave Fleet talk about social media, ubiquitous connectivity and their impact on communication, organizations and society.

Future episodes will be published on and on Social Mediators.