Do you know WhatTheHashtag? Tell them their domain expired

If you follow hashtags, then you may have found WhatTheHashtag to be a very useful free service.

This morning I went to do a hashtag search using the service and received this screen.

If you know the folks behind WhatTheHashTag, let them know that you love the service and encourage them not to let the service lapse. It’s a valuable tool.

UPDATE: The domain is back up. That’s a good thing because WhatTheHashTag is a valuable service. Thanks for coming back to life, @wthashtag.

Inside PR: Talking about Quora and viral videos

This week on Inside PRMartin WaxmanGini Dietrich and I discuss viral videos and Quora, the question and answer website. The viral video discussion begins at minute 2:55 and the Quora discussion at minute 11:34.

I hope you enjoy this episode.

And please join the conversation with us. Leave a comment on this post. Even better, send an audio comment to [email protected]. We’d love to include your audio clip in the next podcast.

Big thanks to our producer, Yasmine Kashefi.

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.

Three questions to ask before accepting a controversial client

Have you ever been found yourself  presented with the opportunity to work for a client who might be controversial.

Recently, my company was asked to work for an organization that many would consider controversial. We struggled with whether we should accept the assignment and, ultimately chose to decline it.

Even though we encounter this type of situation many times in business, it is all too easy to become mired in the specifics of a situation and to lose sight of your longer term objectives.

So, as we deal with these kinds of issues, I’ve written down three questions that I think will always guide us to the right outcome. I’d like to share them with you and get your feedback on this approach and what you do in your own company when confronted with this type of situation.

Business should not be value-free; But it’s complicated

As the CEO of a company, I have to be concerned about the impact our roster of clients will have not only on our public image, but also on our self-image and our internal culture. People should spend their time working on things they believe in. They shouldn’t be compelled to work on assignments or for clients they disagree with.

In the 1980s and early nineties, the CEO of the firm I then worked for famously declared that we would not shy away from taking on controversial clients because “just as every person is entitled to a vigorous defence in court, they also deserve a vigorous defence in the court of public opinion.” Well, I disagreed with that position then and I disagree with it now. There are some bad people in life and they don’t deserve a vigorous defence – at least not from me.

But that’s easy. The “clearly bad” are at one extreme. But we don’t live life in the extremes. We live them in the mushy middle, in shades of gray.

We can’t expect everyone to agree with us or believe in the things we agree in. But we also can’t shy away from supporting a cause or belief that not everyone supports. If we did that, we’d lose ourselves in the depths of political correctness and we’d never do anything.

How do you decide whether to take on a client that may be controversial?

First, avoid the trap of believing that you have to make the decision on your own. I lead a company. But I also work as a team member in that company. The route to the right decision about accepting a potentially controversial client lies first in remembering that we all have a stake in this decision and involving more people than myself in the decision.

Once past this hurdle, I have three questions that will get you to the right outcome for our organization:

1) Do we support the objectives of the potential client as well as the way they go about attempting to achieve them?

The world is full of business opportunities. Why not look for those whose objectives and methods we applaud? Conventional management wisdom advises against grabbing every business opportunity which presents itself but which is off strategy. Similarly, why not focus on bringing in business from organizations and companies that you can easily support. In our case, ff can’t say with pride that we work for a client, we will walk away from the opportunity to work for them.

2) How will this affect the culture of your company?

The answer to the first question cannot be fully provided without reference to the entire organization. Are there people within your company who feel strongly about the potential client? Will it create division and alienation?

This doesn’t mean that anyone individual (including the CEO)  should have a veto. Don’t be afraid to have a vigorous internal discussion. It can lead to an understanding and respect of the different perspectives held by people. Reasonable people should be able to understand another’s point of view and respect that point of view.

Ultimately this is the issue on which management must make a call. Can the normal and healthy differences in opinion be accommodated or is this a situation in which the cultural cost will be too high? If the latter, take a pass on the potential client.

3) How will this be perceived by the external world?

This question comes last because, if you’ve answered the preceding two, you will be ready to weather the disapproval of those who disagree with your decision. And there will always be those that disagree. That’s the great thing about an open and liberal society. We hold different views and we are free to express them.

My objective is not to stop people from criticizing us. My objective is that we appear reasonable and reasoned in our defense of our decision. And if we do that, it will loop back into our internal culture

Bottom line

While we can’t eliminate controversy from attaching it to our businesses (unless we are prepared to be so nondescript and bland that we leave no footprint), by answering these three simple questions we can be true to our essential nature, build a stronger culture, and be ready to respond to comments from the outside world.

How do you handle this kind of situation?

I’d welcome your views on this. What practices do you follow in your company to manage potentially controversial situations?

C.C. Chapman Sells Out

One week from today C.C. Chapman arrives in Canada for his cross-country Third Tuesday Content Rules tour. And already the Third Tuesday Toronto, Third Tuesday Calgary and  Third Tuesday Vancouver events are sold out. Clearly, C.C. is a hot ticket. People are interested in hearing what he has to say and meeting him in person.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Montreal, there are still some open places to hear and meet C.C. at Third Tuesday Montreal. So, you still have a chance to register to attend.

Meeting C.C. Chapman is better by the book

If you are planning to attend Third Tuesday with C.C., I encourage you to get Content Rules and start reading it before the event. You can find it at a bookstore near you or online in hard copy at Chapters or as an eBook at Kobo. C.C. will be signing copies at the event. So be sure to bring your copy with you.

Our sponsors make the third Tuesday community possible

C.C.’s Third Tuesday cross-Canada tour is shaping up to be one of our most successful events yet.

We live in a big country and the cost of staging something like this is considerable. Third Tuesday is organized by volunteers and we could not afford  to bring great speakers like C.C. across Canada without the support of our sponsors: CNW groupRogers Communications, Radian6, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Thank you to our sponsors. You make third Tuesday possible.

Do you become more verbose when your thinking isn't clear?

Do you become more verbose when your thinking isn’t clear? I know I do. The less certain I am about what I want to say, the more words I will use. In effect, I think out loud.

This is not something I’m proud of. I know it makes others cringe and run as fast as they can out of my hearing. And I try to edit myself. I tell myself, “Silence is my friend.”

Do you want an example of what I mean? Then listen to this week’s Inside PR. Not my best episode. Clearly, Gini Dietrich and Martin Waxman are good people. Otherwise, I’m sure they would have said, “Joe, shut the heck up.”

How about you? Do you ever feel that you share this problem? Thinking out loud, but not necessarily getting to the point?

Social Media in Government Conference, Toronto, Jan 31-Feb 3

I’m looking forward to meeting people who have rolled up their sleeves and introduced social media to government when I chair the Conference on Social Media for Government in Toronto at the end of January.

The Advanced Learning Institute (ALI) organizes several social media conferences each year in locations across the United States and Canada. I try to participate in as many as I can manage. I think the ALI organizers run a great conference. Kelly Werwie, the producer of this conference, works hard to curate the content, bringing together the smartest speakers she can find to cover the emerging and enduring issues. Speakers offer both experience and insight. On top of this, the conference also offers many opportunities for participants to spend time with the speakers as well as one another. It’s definitely a conference you come away from with both new contacts and useful information.

I’ll be speaking twice during the conference. On the second morning of the main conference, Pierre Killeen and I will talk about the using social media for public engagement. Then, on the final day of the conference, I’ll participate with my colleagues Mike Edgell and Eric Portelance in delivering a workshop on producing and integrating video into your social media.

If you have training budget available and are looking for a top-notch learning experience, I encourage you to take a look at the full agenda of the social media in government conference and to consider attending. If you do attend, I hope you’ll take the time to introduce yourself to me and let me know what you think of conference.

A great learning experience to start the year.

A renewed commitment to blogging and commenting

Throughout 2010, I disappointed myself. As the weeks went by, I realized I was posting less on Just as bad, I failed to make the time to comment on other people’s blogs.

I found several reasons to rationalize my flagging effort at blogging. I had transferred much of my attention to twitter. More and more, I would tweet my thoughts in snippets and link to content that caught my eye. At the same time, I was being asked to speak to groups more often. I try to deliver a different presentation to every group. So I was spending an increasing amount of time creating content that would be presented to small groups, but which I failed to translate into blog posts. Add to this the uptick in the business cycle that took more of my time on company work and you I had all that I needed to justify my less frequent posting on Pro PR.

But I feel guilty about that. I take great value from the posts that others spend the time writing. And I feel I should contribute in equal measure.

So my promise to myself (and you) is to post much more frequently in 2011. My target is five posts per week. That’s ambitious and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to achieve this all or even most weeks. But I’ll try.

At the same time, I will make a real effort to write comments on other people’s sites. I frequently tweet links to the content that I find interesting. But I know as an author of a blog, tweeted links are no substitute for a healthy conversation in the context of the blog post itself. So I will try to contribute more to the conversation in the place where you create it – your blog – as well as tweeting links.

I hope that you will continue to visit and subscribe to in 2011. If you see something interesting here, please take a minute to leave a comment with your own thoughts.

Ultimately, it’s the conversation that validates the effort of blogging.