« Writers are windbags too | Main | Yes, the copy matters »

September 18, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Oh boy, was it a compliment. An average consultant takes the job for the money, no heart invested. Good consultants that will say, "no, I'm not your man (or woman)," are very difficult to find.

Yes, Yossi, but people don't usually take corporate employee communication jobs out of the goodness of their hearts! I mean, we're all in this for the money. But there got to be a sense that we're doing somebody some good--and in my experience in consulting, I didn't get that sense.

Well, David, of course you know I'm going to disagree with you on this. I know you're speaking from your experience, which unfortunately was frustrating and unfulfilling.

But I've been in the consulting business for going on 10 years. While there have a few bad experiences (as there are in any job), I've enjoyed the opportunity to make real, tangible contributions to my clients' work. I've also enjoyed getting to know and work with a lot more people, many of them good and talented communicators, than I would have in a corporate job.

I like to think that at least part of the reason I've had such good experiences is that I treat clients fairly, I'm clearly not out to make a quick buck (one look at my bank account tells me this is true), and I speak the truth, no matter how difficult it might be for the client to hear it.

Having said all that, I'm glad you didn't remain a consultant because then you would have missed your true calling, which it seems you are living now.

Point taken, Robert.

"I speak the truth, no matter how difficult it might be for the client to hear it."

This is one area that I was NOT particularly good at. I probably compromised in some places where I shouldn't have; in consulting, there were no hills I thought were worth dying on. I often found myself saying,

"Who gives a shit?"

"If that's what they want, that's what they'll get."

"Thank God it's Friday."

Signs that I wasn't meant to do the job.

Robert, what's the most rewarding consulting work you've ever done? What's the most courageous moment you've ever had?

I'm with you, Robert. I've had FAR more good experiences than bad. I've made a difference a lot more than I've made a mess.

Consulting is hard work. It's much harder, in my opinion, than speaking or writing . . . both of which I also do.

But when you do it right, when you do make a difference, it's also the most rewarding thing in the world. More than writing a good blog item, or giving a good speech.

Steve C.

I give you guys gory anecdotes and you give me generalities.

Really? Employee communication consulting is "the most rewarding thing in the world"?

Examples, my consultant friends!

OK, examples. However, you'll have to understand that I can't divulge the names of these organizations. That's one frustrating thing I've learned in consulting: clients are loathe to have their names used in examples. I'd be happy to tell you who they were in a private exchange, though.

The most rewarding work I've done, I think, is with a client that was caught short on 9/11/2001. They did not have a crisis communication plan in place on that day. This is a prominent organization in their city and their building is a prominent one on the skyline. To make matters worse, the building was on a list of potential targets of the terrorists that day (as it was later discovered).

I worked with this organization to create a comprehensive crisis communication plan that synched up with the business resumption plan. I also developed and managed a communication program in the months following 9/11 to help reassure employees about their safety and security in the event of another similar incident.

The most courageous moment is a bit more difficult to decide. I think the moments when I've told the hard truth have come as part of communication audits that I and a partner have conducted for several organizations. The communication leaders in these companies were often shocked to hear what employees really thought about their communication programs. But after they got over the shock, some of them used the audit to make significant improvements to their programs. I remember one client that essentially dismissed the report, which is a shame, especially considering how much money they spent on the audit.

Are those concrete enough for you?

Certainly is specific enough, Robert. One of the big issues I know I have is, "What constitutes success? What is reasonable and what is grandiose?"

Once a consultant pal of mine called and asked me to name a corporate culture that had been truly transformed by employee communication. I paused. And then we both burst out laughing .....

One of the hard lessons I've learned, not only in my consulting career but also in my previous corporate career, is that employee communication alone isn't going to transform any company. In fact, it's a bit pretentious to think we can, I believe.

I'm all about the small victories. An example is a client I've been working with for five years now. When my fellow consultants and I began working with this client, the legal counsel was overbearing in its "approval" of our intranet content. Over the years we've managed to win the lawyers' trust and, as a result, legal counsel now "reviews" our content and with quite a light hand, I might add. Might sound like small potatoes, but believe me, for this client that's created quite a significant shift in what we write about and how we write about it.

Wow. I've been a government communicator, a consultant for nine years, and a government communicator again. I was amused/appalled to see how many of your stories I have lived through too. Sure, there have been good moments; but plenty of what you described too.


I'm not sure what you're looking for. Consulting is like any other job . . . good days and bad days, good people and not-so-good people, some great projects, some where you think you're spinning your wheels.

If you are looking for reaffirmation that you made the right decision, you can certainly have that. As a consultant, you are a hell of a writer.

But you know what? I do have one very specific example. But it's so big, and it actually involves a video, that I'm going to write about it on my blog and link here.

Look for it in a day or so. It really shows the upside of being a consultant. Great clients, great work, and making a difference. And unlike a lot of clients, these folks won't care if I "out" them.

Steve C.

Cool, Steve. Looking forward to it.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner