Hit Piece Publishing – How does that happen?

Negative stories on the Internet can be damaging to a company’s reputation, but where do these type of stories originate?

An article recently appeared on Forbes.com that proceeded to tell a very negative story about one company’s experience when attempting to join one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations, Insperity. The story related to a company that was ready to sign-on to obtain PEO services with Insperity, but at the last minute the deal soured and the client was left in the lurch for health insurance for their employees. The article was about how the potential PEO client was upset about the way the deal fell through and the story left the reader with a very negative impression of Insperity.

How do stories like this get published?

How this story in Forbes came to be, is yet another thing to be explored. The author makes no mention of attempting to contact anyone at Insperity to get their side of the story. That is what a trained journalist would be expected to do, but evidently Forbes readers shouldn’t confuse a “contributor’ with a journalist.  Our story author, one Cameron Keng is noted as a Forbes ‘contributor’. Forbes says on the their site that “opinions expressed by Forbes contributors are their own”. Okay so Forbes does not stand behind the story, check. Next, a review of his bio on Linkedin states the author has worked in taxation at KPMG, PWC and also created his own foundation http://www.kenginstitute.org in NYC to help low-income earners get their taxes done. Sounds nice, but check out the website. All it really says is “taxes”… “CALL ME”. Is the LinkedIn profile legit? Who knows, but anyone can claim to be anything on linkedIn. If you want tips on creating a bogus LinkedIn profile – check this out.

Here is another question, do these Forbes contributors get paid? And if so, by whom? The answer according to Forbes is that some do and some don’t. Here is what Forbes has to say and according to an article at Digiday in 2014:

“Forbes, however, doesn’t pay 60 percent of contributors. “We’re willing to pay everybody, but you have to make a commitment,” said Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer of Forbes Media. That commitment, which requires contributors to post five times a month and respond to readers in comments, might be a tough sell for many Forbes writers, which is why the company also compensates them with exposure and “association with the Forbes brand.”

Okay, so let’s assume our story author is part of the majority of Forbes contributors that are unpaid (by Forbes). Nobody works for free so let’s speculate for a moment about this author and who is paying him. First of all, note that his story is overall a very positive review of the potential value for a company to join a PEO. Great! However the negative (and damaging) part of the story is pointed directly at one PEO in particular, Insperity.   Like any good detective, let’s ask who benefits from a story like this and who does not. Could it be that this story was commissioned by one of Insperity’s competitors … like ADP, Paychex, Trinet, or any of a hundred other PEOs? Let’s hope not. Digging up dirt on your competitors and getting it published in a national business publication is hitting below the belt.

Or maybe the potential Insperity client was upset about not getting the deal they wanted, and then vowed to hit back against Insperity. Maybe Mr. Chen was the chosen mercenary.

But deals fall apart all the time – it happens. In this case, hopefully someone at Insperity will have a chance to respond to this article and tell their side of the story.

Regardless of how this played out the potential PEO client should have reviewed several PEO options and saved themselves some grief.