💸 Forbes is Calling You...For Money

Teardown: Forbes Councils are for suckers

You’d want to know if you’re being swindled, yeah? Tricked? Deceived into believing someone actually appreciates you?

Cool. I knew I liked you when you subscribed to this newsletter.

I want to tell you the truth about Forbes Councils and why you should 🏃 from Forbes if they approach you or your coworkers.

“But John, being seen in Forbes is great isn’t it?”

It’s total:

Their salespeople are hassayampas! Google that word; I know you won’t.

Forbes' brand is for sale, kinda. You may have seen "articles" featuring commentary from 12 or so folks, AKA Council Members, like this one from today:

Suh-weet stock photo from Canva, right? WTF.

Ever wonder who these “leaders” are and how they got there? Well, I’ll break this pay-for-play beast down. It goes like this:

  1. Forbes reaches out to people. That makes recipients feel special. Obvy.

  2. Forbes tells people that Councils are invite-only and curated

  3. “Joining” costs $1,900+ per year

  4. “Members” can publish on Forbes.com and promote themselves

  5. Forbes gives out web decals, badges, “networking” opps

  6. Forbes upsells ya on coaching and health insurance

You're a paying contributor.

You’re not featured by a Forbes staff writer.

You’re not even featured by one of their ~2,000 non-staff writers.

This matters a lot

As Forbes.com readers, we expect to see tips and advice from the best leaders and execs. But these 'successful executives and entrepreneurs' don't have health insurance? Can't network? They need that?

As a trade for $, Forbes gives council members a web badge? It's meant to provide an official association or third-party validation for that person/member. This 'logo rental' devalues the iconic Forbes brand. How you ask? You warm my:

Encouraging "invitation-only" dues-paying council members to take an admired media logo and slap it on websites is a disgrace. Secondly, there’s no brand control. To all Forbes’ staffers, designers, data scientists, event planners, journalists, engineers, I am sorry. But the almighty ad revenue crushes you down like:

The biggest lure of this program is to say you write for Forbes. The ability to post original content on Forbes.com sure is a coveted thing. No doubt. For folks looking to make a name for themselves, it sounds ideal on paper. But what often is published are self-promoting pieces or hidden crapvertorial. Sometimes, masked native advertising. Folks either talk about themselves or work they did for clients:

Huh? How can this be? Well, Forbes' Paid Program enables pay-for-publish permission. Take money, let members publish propaganda. It's hush-hush that council members are pinged post-acceptance by reps wanting to put them in touch with writers. So you say, why not buy an ad? Well...

Most businesses can't afford to run ads on Forbes.com or sponsor their events. This freedom to publish—that isn't free—is tempting for marketers and businesses hoping to leverage the Forbes name. And for new biz, Forbes offers cache.

Brand and vendors often put media logos in their decks or on their sites to show authority, but in this case, it could backfire if someone knows the truth about inserting the Forbes logo. Eek. Think about it, a junior SDR/BDR won't know they're sending prospects a sly ad.

The streets are talkin’

Every few weeks a prospect or client sees a 'We Asked 15 Pros' Forbes article quoting council members from a new-to-them company and asks me how they got in. I’ve learned that most people, including very intelligent marketers and even some journalists, don't know it's pay-for-play.

To Forbes Council Members, if you must pay someone to publish your thoughts and join a fee-based “community,” are you an expert? Congrats, you've found a rather inexpensive digital shortcut to be seen and heard, but is it well thought of?

Now that Forbes Council posts say 'Paid Program', readers are seeing through the smoke. People are questioning if council members are true authorities since they see it's paid placement.

Do you want your prospects to know you can’t generate media stories written by journalists?

How’d this happen?

Curious how this revenue model came to life in Forbes Councils like I was? I’ll tell ya. Forbes saw Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), a fee-based community made up of founders 45 years or younger, crushing it by charging annual membership dues. This is from Forbes' site:

But maybe you don't care because saying "I'm in Forbes" feels good? Hmm. Sounds like an ego needs to be checked like:

Stop peacocking

To the PR professionals and marketers who run press releases about execs accepted onto Forbes Councils with that awful release template that Forbes gives you…THEY PAID $1,900+.

This isn't news. No achievement was made. Exhibit A:

I urge executives to earn titles like expert instead of paying to snag them.

Remember, Forbes didn't select you. Forbes doesn't respect you.

Forbes wants your money and will prey on hopeful professionals that want to be seen in well-known publications. Forbes is and has been preying on the uneducated. When you understand all of it, it’s really gross.

Did you know this program costed money? Was this interesting to you?