Advertorial sharp practice

If you ever get a phone call from a company called PSCA International asking you to contribute an article for one of their magazines (which they call books), don’t get suckered into agreeing to do something and then finding out that it will cost you money.

That’s what happened to me on Friday morning, and I feel a bit of idiot for getting so suckered.

This company, whose presence online sits behind the name ‘’, publishes a number of publications in the public sector, as their website explains. According to the person who wasted my time in a 45-minute phone call, a new edition of HR and Training Journal is in the works for which they need content written by knowledgeable people.

The people who use these publications, the person told me, are hugely influential throughout government and make purchasing decisions.

She buttered me up no end on how I was unquestionably The One to write about social media as “that’s what you do at WesissComm.”

The sales person spent a lot of time dropping the names of people like Yvette Cooper, Boris Johnson and Digby Jones, which should have set off my alarm bells immediately. So I should feel honoured to be included in such august company was the message I was hearing.

To cut to the finale, I did agree to write 600 words about social media and behavioural change, in which I would include examples of organizations and their experiences with aspects of social media in the context of change and meeting business goals, that were relevant as opposed to simply dropping big names which is what the sales person seemed to prefer.

Something the person said in response to a question I asked about how her company makes its money made me pause to ask another question. How they make money is based on charging companies a fee for being profiled in the company’s publications. They have no advertising at all, she said.

So I asked for clarity: I’m willing to contribute an article and there’s no cost for that, right? Oh no, she said, there is a fee involved as your company will be profiled.

That’s the point at which my good nature in the conversation disappeared. She never mentioned a cost until I asked specifically whether there was one. She did say she was going to tell me once she’d decided whether I was “the right fit for this important project.” I’ll never know if she was telling the truth. But I feel pretty sure that if I hadn’t asked my question and simply gone away and written the piece, an invoice would have appeared at some point.

I was so angry, I didn’t hang around to hear how much the cost would have been. I think part of my anger was the feeling of being an idiot in listening to all the guff, and being taken in, during a 45-minute phone call.

Sharp practice and deeply unethical, in my view. My recommendation: don’t touch PSCA International with a bargepole.

Needless to say, don’t expect to see anything written by me appearing in any publication produced by this company.

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