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Turning Down Clients You Can’t Fully Support

Should you turn down clients or stop working for companies if you disagree with their philosophy?

In the recent Paula Deen controversy, her publicist Nancy Assuncao, resigned and said, “If you don’t believe in what your client wants to do, it’s your business to leave.”

PR consultants, business consultants and others must sometimes decide whether to work with clients they don’t fully support: tobacco, gambling, political campaigns, etc. And recently people on both sides of the issue reconsidered support of the Susan G. Komen organization.

Here are some of the responses I received when I posed the question on a LinkedIn discussion group:

Chris Kirk: It really depends on the situation, doesn’t it? Is the philosophy something that’s just outside your comfort zone or does it conflict with your morals and values? I for one appreciate companies that stand by their convictions.

Amy Rathbone:  If peace of mind in the workplace and not compromising your morals for a paycheck is (important to you) then I think you may work for less people and make less money but ultimately be happier with how you are doing business…We probably have all made the mistake of compromising our principles. It’s that ‘ugh’ feeling that hits you in the car on the way home. It’s so much easier to avoid!

Brett Gibson: If your “why’s” don’t align, then antagonistic relationships ensue. If you know why you do what you do, and the client has a different objective, then they are a bad fit. (Also holds true for employee engagement.)…If you know that the client is hurting themselves with their practices, and they won’t listen to consultative advice – there’s little likelihood that they will change that charge to failure. You don’t have to ride along. Find clients more in line with your vision/mission.

Donna Gordon: In the long run, choosing business partners and clients whose values align with yours is not just peace of mind, it’s good business. Whether consciously or subconsciously, if you are not ‘all in’ with the client or project, your work will suffer.

Beatrice Ten-Thye: I am a Virtual Assistant who works with and in relationships. I find it impossible to work with anyone whose business philosophy does not correspond to mine. That said, if I meet a potential client who is not in alignment with my philosophy, I do refer him to someone else. It wouldn’t be good for me or the client to enter into a working relationship that does not fit.

Patrick Shore: Our philosophy is doing the right thing for each and every client. If we do not agree with a product, service, or set of business practices we will share this with the client and politely decline their business. I cannot innovate and create growth for items I do not believe in or cannot share with others…I teach leaders to think this way: Are you proud of your business philosophy, business practices and products? Would you brag about them with your family, spouse and children? If the answer is no, you should rethink.

Sherri Becker: If philosophies are not aligned then the PR that the consultant provides may not be presented with the utmost authenticity. Authenticity and honesty are qualities that we work to achieve in all our projects.

Susan Pepperdine: I agree with those who responded. I’ve found I can’t do PR for people, products or companies unless I really believe in them. If you aren’t sold on something, how can you sell somebody else?

Of course lawyers must defend murder suspects – whether they believe they’re guilty or not – because it’s a constitutional right. But we as marketers don’t have to represent companies or products we don’t believe in. It’s important to be proud of your own company and business practices as well as with your clients’ products and business practices.

What do you think?

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