Forbes Agency Council: A Scam and Money-Making Scheme

Forbes Magazine 2

After speaking to multiple agency professionals across a variety of marketing disciplines, we are getting the feeling that the Forbes Agency Council is a scheme and scam – albeit one endorsed by Forbes Magazine.

In December, Forbes announced plans for the “Forbes Agency Council”, a new council they claim is all about exclusivity and business connection services. It’s invitation only and offered to senior “executives in public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.” They promise all kinds of perks for those who are “lucky” enough to be accepted, saying only 10% will make it in – though we’re not sure what the 10% refers to – is that 10% of those invited, or just 10% of top executives in the listed sectors? In all honesty, we find their number very hard to believe.

The perks accepted members supposedly receive is getting their articles published in Forbes, peer matchups, a special concierge service, and health insurance options.

Let’s start with the first claim (as published on Forbes Agency Council): “Members receive the exclusive opportunity to share their thought leadership by contributing original articles to Forbes.com, with its nearly 38 million monthly readers. Members can submit business articles and tips directly through the member dashboard, where our editorial team edits the content and then publishes it on Forbes.com.”

They don’t tell you that it takes up to 8 weeks for the content to publish – and you will receive endless calls and emails as a member trying to sell you writing services of some unknown writer (from Forbes or a random agency, no one tells that part) when calling from “Forbes Agency Council.” Nor is it made clear if said content is identified as native content or not.

Their “Top health insurance benefits” mean they will be acting as an insurance broker and probably making a commission off of any deal they offer members. Now, consider this “concierge service” and “health insurance”, yet members must have “a minimum of $2 Million in revenue” – Can one have that sort of revenue and not have access to Amex concierge, or a slew of health insurance brokers?

This is all about Forbes’ licensing their name – and receiving commissions (kickbacks) for someone to exploit their name in health insurance, the services one needs from concierge, and more. One other feature, they’ll give you a web badge to proudly display the Forbes name on your website – hence, Forbes’ brand is for sale.

Every month you can also make use of a Council virtual personal assistant – let them book travel plans for you – although wouldn’t any top-level executive already have a personal assistant or other staff members handling those items and keeping any discounts inhouse?

And can one pay money and write for Forbes.com? Where will it be noted that this is a pay for play? Is it? Sounds like a desperate way for a publisher to make money – while exploiting a great brand name.

We can say this, Forbes has learned well from some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs and marketing people – they know how to sell, but that’s not really what people want from Forbes, is it?

Scott D. Gerber

Scott D. Gerber

Who came up with the Forbes Agency Council Plan?

According to Forbes, this plan was proposed by Scott D. Gerber, the founder and CEO of YEC (Young Entrepreneurs Council). Mike Perlis, President and CEO of Forbes Media said, “As Forbes’ global reach and engagement with business innovators continues to grow, we’re constantly looking for ways to better serve our audience. YEC’s team brings a deep understanding of high-touch and highly personalized community management that will allow us to better identify and serve the exclusive communities that exist within our global audience.”

Gerber is a self-described “hustler, rainmaker, and bootstrapper who has survived and thrived despite never having held the proverbial “real” job.”

So he’s taking the exact model he formed his YEC organization with and trying to force established successful entrepreneurs into his square hole – and it isn’t a good fit. It will never be a good fit. We’re a bit dumbfounded why Forbes ever believed it would – but they do. Since introducing the Forbes Agency Council, they’ve put all their efforts into mashing that round peg where it won’t fit.

If you wanted to join this “elite” group, what would be required?

Your firm must be located in North America, and “Qualified candidates must work with (or have founded) an organization with a minimum of $2 million annual revenue and/or $2 million in financing.”.

We are still wondering what Forbes was thinking when they put this deal together. Why would they put their high-quality and exceptional brand name on what appears to be a scam to bring in a few dollars?  We think they are better than that, but apparently they don’t.

Neither Forbes Magazine nor the “Forbes Agency Council” would comment for this story.

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Comments

  1. Jane @Glasshouse LLC says

    Jed Cohen (rockethub.com), Beck Bamberger (bamcommunications.biz), Zach Cutler (cutlerpr.co), Shama Hyder (marketingzen.com), Richard Lorenzen (richardlorenzen.com), thank you for making this piece more valid. Comments that fall within a few days of each other… Y’all seem like you love your own personal brand enough to buy into this forbes club, I’m surprised you didn’t mention your companies and stand behind this bs in a more official manner. You pretty much sound like you would endorse the BBB as a valid business practice as long as you had your A+ rating.

  2. YWL says

    I Join the Nonprofit council, despite I was “congratulated” for fit their qualifications, after that I complete their official application, and the respond was:

    “I want to be the first to congratulate you on being accepted into the YEC. I know that you will be an amazing addition to our elite organization. I know the application you filled out was for our Forbes Nonprofit Council, but our selection committee thinks YEC is a better fit”

    Meaning they wanted to get 1200 dollars yearly instead of 800 dollars, after I share with them the official incorporation documents as Non For Profit “they reconsider” and share with me the link to pay my “membership”

    I should say after I join I got few emails and some of my designated workers got some emails as well -promotional emails- despite I didn’t get respond to my request of support that quick.

    When you join the Councils you are allowed to “provide an article for consideration” every month why? Simple because they process to review your material will take time, keep in mind that contributors to forbes.com normally get their articles published in between 1 to 2 weeks.

    No that’s my experience I am dissapointed to join a community where I pay and the process for everything is slow like in any free service.

    Keep in mind they mention you get some discounts for flights? Let me explain you they refer you to a company where they are AFFILIATED so basically they making MORE MONEY From you, most of their services are same are AFFILIATE PRODUCTS anyone can actually get.

    Now let’s talk if the 1200 or 800 dollars worth or no?

    From my point of view get the chance to have a maximum of 12 Co-Contribution articles published on Forbes.com is the best part of everything

    Keep in mind you are NO become contributor of Forbes, the official contributor is Forbes Council and you are NO Getting an official profile at Forbes, yes, yes you get your picture and a short bio with a link BUT not a profile, meaning you are a Co-contributor.

    I will be making an article at Huffingtonpost latter this week before the year end about this since is a topic that looks really interesting to me.

    But in General as I mention before I think the best is the chance to have your name include on forbes.com as Co-contributor.

    Hope my experience provide some feedback for those willing to join.

  3. John Brown says

    Ha! 2/3 of the comments fell on the same 2 days and they basically say the same thing. That is enough to show me that it is a major scam. Plus, I can’t stop the spam from another Forbes’ council (“Communication Council”) no matter how many times I have opted out. Buh-bye!

  4. Lana Moore says

    I received an email yesterday from a representative at Forbes Agency Council. I had never heard of the service so I decided to do some homework and stumbled on to this article. After reading the article and the comments, I have a few mixed feelings, but will entertain the conversation after the holidays.

  5. Andrew Loos says

    What a bunch of bile. Seriously, this is nothing more the smear piece, by someone who quite obviously never got involved in the council itself. I am currently a Forbes Agency Council member and have seen great value to-date with the connections and community it offers.

    I’m glad that the true transparency of active members have prevailed and filled the comments section here.

  6. Richard Lorenzen says

    As a member of the Forbes Agency Council, it surprises me how far off base this article is. Many of the assertions here are completely false and I haven’t experienced any of the problems indicated. Very poorly written article that honestly makes me question the integrity of the whole website and this contributor.

    The concierge at Forbes Agency Council has provided great value to me and my firm. I’ve also been a member of the YEC for 5 years now and Scott Gerber has always gone above and beyond to be a resource to members of all of his organizations. Investing in his organizations has always provided value and ROI to us that was many many times what we invested.

  7. Shama Hyder says

    I am a member of the council, and this could not be further from my experience. The calibre of network and experiences alone makes it highly valuable. A “scheme and scam” implies that what’s promised isn’t delivered…but that’s blatantly untrue. It is up to each individual to decide if what the program offers is of value to them. I know many professionals who would wait months to have a chance to be published by Forbes. Yes, I have a personal assistant, but having the concierge service is an added bonus! Better insurance rates negotiated on my behalf? Awesome. An opportunity to network with others who share my challenges and learn best practices? Yes, please!

    There are no hidden punches here. If this is an op-ed piece of one person’s experience, then it should be labeled as such. Touting it as a expose of sorts without any verifiable proof is just libelous.

  8. Zach Cutler says

    I am shocked to see this article. I’ve been a YEC member for several years, and am a new member of the Forbes Agency Council. My experience working with both groups has been nothing but professional and helpful to me and my business. The author writes “you will receive endless calls and emails as a member trying to sell you writing services of some unknown writer.” What is that based on? I have not found that to be the case at all.

    Scott Gerber, YEC and Forbes Agency Council are great to work with and be a part of – and I find this article to be inaccurate and upsetting.

  9. Beck Bamberger says

    Jason-I’m part of the Forbes Agency Council and haven’t been heckled at all as noted in your comment, ” .. .and you will receive endless calls and emails as a member trying to sell you writing services of some unknown writer (from Forbes or a random agency, no one tells that part) when calling from “Forbes Agency Council.” How did this occur? I’m curious, as I haven’t seen or heard anything negative from fellow members. I’m also part of the YEC network, which has a relationship already established with Forbes, and my experience has thus far been positive. Just offering a different experience/perspective here.

  10. Jed Cohen says

    Honestly, this article sort of upsets me. It’s poorly written, and ill informed. I am a member of the Forbes Technology Council (https://forbestechcouncil.com/), with the same member benefits, and I have been very pleased with the service. If the writer had asked for my thoughts, here’s what I would have said:

    “They don’t tell you that it takes up to 8 weeks for the content to publish.”
    Of course it takes time to publish. They assist in editing the content. Without the help of an editor, typos such as “the perks [plural] accepted members supposedly receive is [singular]…” might appear in my writing, as they do above. Unfortunately it seems you didn’t have the services of a skilled editor at your disposal when writing this piece.

    As for the health insurance service, I have not used it. But you claim “this is all about Forbes’ [typo, errant apostrophe] licensing their [typo, should be “its”] name – and receiving commissions (kickbacks).” But given the fact that you didn’t speak to anyone at Forbes Magazine or the “Forbes Agency Council,” how could you possibly be aware of any financial arrangements? Further more, if the service is good, why begrudge Forbes for making a commission on the transaction? You’d pay the same commission to another broker. I just don’t think the criticism (if accurate) is valid. Yes, I may be able to access to all of these services from different providers. But having them all provided by a trusted and high quality source is valuable to me.

    Moving on, I have often claimed to never have held a “real job” before as well. After all, haven’t we all heard “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”? What’s your beef with Scott Gerber? Based on your comments, you might have the same issues with me.

    Finally, I find it highly suspect that “neither Forbes Magazine nor the ‘Forbes Agency Council’ would comment for this story.” You wrote a smear piece, published on a website I’ve never heard of before, for no apparent reason. What’s your angle?

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