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.

Connect2Canada: Using social media to create a community of Canadians in the United States

c2cYesterday, I introduced Connect2Canada as a case study of government making effective use of social media. Today, I’m taking a deeper look at Connect2Canada, what’s going on and the results that are being achieved.

What is it?

Connect2Canada is a network of Canadians and Friends of Canada in the United States. Its goal is to reach out to these people and make them quasi-Ambassadors for Canada.

Conect2Canada was started as a Website on July 1, 2005. The Facebook page was added in late 2008. The Twitter stream, Flickr photos and YouTube videos were added at the time of the inauguration of President Obama (Canada’s Embassy has a primo location in Washington, a great place to take videos and pictures of the inaugural parade.)

What are they achieving?

Connect2Canada’s community is growing constantly in several dimensions:

New members are signing up for email newsletters on the Connect2Canada Website.


Today, members span the United States.


The Connect2Canada Facebook page continues to attract new fan.


Connect2Canada is attracting new followers every week.


Community and Engagement

Making the flow of information two-way is a high priority for Connect2Canada. They respond to Twitter comments and email. But they also work to enable conversations among members, linking to groups around the US and promoting real life events and other networks of Canadians in the U.S.

The Connect2Canada community is highly engaged with C2C. One indicator of this: An email to C2C members from Ambassador Wilson had an open rate in excess of 50%. That’s one out of every two people who received the email opened it. I think that’s a very high rate for a broadcast email.

Resources and Champions

Connect2Canada is run by one full time staffer in the Canadian Embassy in Washington supported by part-time contributions from a few others. They rely on the Canadian Consulates throughout the United States to provide local content.

Connect2Canada had senior level champions. The social media activities were approved and supported by both the Ambassador in Washington and the Assistant Deputy Minister (North America) in Ottawa.

The importance of relevant content

The biggest lesson learned by Connect2Canada? The importance of good content. Says Eric Portelance, the Advocacy Officer at the Canadian Embassy in Washington in charge of who works on Connect2Canada, “You can have the best ideals, but if the content isn’t interesting to your target audience, they won’t come back or they won’t come at all.”

Connect2Canada asks new members to indicate their interests when they register. The people behind Connect2Canada then use this information to tailor content to the interests of members, sending them only the streams of content that match those interests.

Source material

Eric Portelance recorded a video interview with me on May 12 when he spoke at the Advanced Learning Institute‘s Conference on Social Media for Government in Ottawa. I’ve also drawn on his presentation slides as well as my Twitter notes from the conference.

You can watch my video interview with Eric Portelance on YouTube or in the player embedded below.