Advertorial sharp practice

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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 ‘publicservice.co.uk’, 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.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Robin Grant, We Are Social

    Hey Neville

    I had a very similar experience with them. One of the most annoying and cloying phonecalls I’ve ever had. I ended up hanging up on them (as far as I can remember, the only time I’ve ever done this in a professional context).

  2. Mark Pack

    Ah snap!

    My phonecall was a bit more upfront about money (i.e. it got mentioned 20 minutes in) but then other parts were so inconsistent I’m dubious that all I was told can have been true.

    Nice to know I’m in such exalted company with the two of you though.

    I have previously dealt with another of the titles which sits on that domain – Public Servant – and that was all professional and above board, so hopefully this problem is fairly restricted in its extent.

    • neville

      Thanks for your comment, Mark. I’d never heard of this company before and my only experience with them is to do with this matter.

      ‘Other parts being inconsistent’ is another part of my exerpeience, too. Reflecting on the call and looking at my notes, it’s all a maze of obfuscation that’s it’s hard to figure out what the story actually was.

      I wonder who else has a sorry tale to share.

  3. Seobelle

    I have had plenty of experience with these guys and they are the scum of the advertising industry – aswell as their competitors!
    They have scripts that the sales guys use and have aggressive techniques you write an article pay them to publish then apparently they send to key decision makers in the public sector blah blah blah
    Stay away it is a waste of money!!!

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