I feel an obligation to protect the students that I teach and mentor. Whenever possible, I try to steer them away from mistakes I’ve made or lend them some of the limited wisdom I’ve acquired in nearly two decades of being a professional.
The latest effort to help students and young professionals out is advising them to stay away from “Cohesion, Inc.” (formerly “Grand Marketing”), “Prestige Enterprises,” and other similar companies, which are essentially door-to-door sales or telemarketing jobs falsely promoted as jobs in marketing, advertising or public relations.
These companies target college students and 20-somethings with promises of jobs in marketing and advertising, when what they really offer is commission-based sales. They claim to represent companies in the “Sports” and “Fashion” fields because they know these industries are top targets of young professionals. In reality, students end up selling undesirable products (like health supplements) and work on commission – and often they’re set up as multi-level marketing operations (ie pyramid schemes).
In doing some digging, it appears that many of these companies are all franchises of Cydcor (the Mother Ship). Their entry on PissedOffConsumer spells out many of the same complaints that others have had. The parent company, be it Cydcor or some other group, provides the franchisees with canned website copy and direction on how to set up their business (which makes them all easy to spot – see below).
Fortunately social media gives former employees and interviewees a way to share information about the deception with others, resulting in this long entry about Grand Marketing / Cohesion at PissedOffConsumer.com. In fact, social media could be what drove the company to switch names as the negative reviews rank higher than the actual company website in Google search results:
Another company of the same variety in Grand Rapids has come to my attention: Prestige Enterprises Inc. They appear to be the same type of operation, as the copy from their website shows up on the sites of dozens of other similar “marketing” companies around the country. I took a unique phrase from the websites of Cohesion and Prestige and googled it – these are the results (so either they’re all plagiarists, or they all are using the same website template):
These companies also share similar Facebook page characteristics (inspirational quote photos – some even use the same ones, group photos, and a “careers” page that links to the Jobcast recruiting app).
These companies are starting to get more savvy about how they recruit, as they’re realizing that people are figuring them out. They’ve even started to infiltrate the job boards at colleges and universities (so you can’t even trust that those have been vetted properly, a fact I was disappointed to find out). Moreover, Cohesion appears to be trying to get out in front of the negative reviews, and mysteriously a couple of rave reviews have shown up on the company’s Glassdoor.com page (and somehow the same photos from their Facebook page are uploaded to the Glassdoor profile on the same day as one of the reviews):
As many young professionals need to be warned about these deceptive outfits as possible – so if you’ve had a bad experience with a company like this, post a review to Glassdoor.com, RipOffReport.com, or PissedOffConsumer.com, or give us their name here. If you’ve received a job offer from a company you’re suspicious of, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to help you do background research on them to see if they’re legitimate or not. If you want to do your own research, here are some tips:
How to Tell if a Company is Really a Marketing / Advertising / Public Relations Firm
- Check their website and social media presences for photos of actual, real people. Most of these companies rely heavily on stock photography (because real photography of real people is expensive or time-consuming to produce). If they do have photos of “real” people – they’ll typically be large group photos which make it appear like there are more people working there than actually are.
- Do they talk about “Sports Marketing,” “Fashion Marketing,” or other really desirable industries that seem too good to be true? – They probably are.
- Search for the company name in your local business publications (for example the Grand Rapids Business Journal, MiBiz or Rapid Growth) – have they made any lists? Are there any profiles of their executives or employees? If not – that’s a red flag.
- Check your local County Registrar or the Michigan State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (DLEG) – they will allow you to search for people who have applied for DBA record (“Doing Business As”). Most, like Kent County, have an online search feature. This can tell you who is behind the company and much more about them – particularly the State of Michigan DLEG directory; it contains the company’s annual report and incorporation documents (watch for companies where the same person holds all of the offices – ie President, Secretary, Treasurer, Director).
- Find what appears to be a unique string of text somewhere in their website (usually from the “About” section) and search for it in quotes in Google. When the results come back, if you see the exact same string of text in multiple other websites – you’ll know they’re not legit. Note: Google will sometimes omit similar results – so you may need to click the “repeat the search with the omitted results included” link.
- Look for a company on Linkedin. They should have a company page (especially if they’re a marketing, advertising or public relations firm). If they don’t have one, red flag. If they DO have one, you can use it to get more intel on the company: if you view a company page and click “Insights,” it will give you a wealth of data. You can find out who some former employees are (so you can look up their work history or perhaps even contact them to get insight on how it was working there), who some current employees are, what similar companies people also search for, and the most common places their employees came from.
- Search for the company on job websites (I recommend Indeed.com, which is right now by far the best job website). If they have a LOT of positions posted and yet they’re small enough that you’ve never heard of them, that should be a big red flag. Just look, for example, at how many positions Prestige Enterprises is trying to fill (and the variety of titles).