Marketers have taken on the position that content marketing is king. A company can display its own knowledge and authority or ride on that of third parties, such as media outlets or social media influencers.

But there's no such thing as risk-free marketing. An influencer may have a faked following. Even an article or blog post can backfire if you produce your own content.

They did for BCG Attorney Search of Pasadena, California. Managing director Harrison Barnes wrote an article that appeared on the company's site and also LinkedIn, as he generally does every week. Only, this piece -- about why an attorney applying for a job at a firm may not hear back -- was blasted for sexism, as The American Lawyer reported on Friday.

Target for the criticism was a section of the long piece. Here is is, via a version cached by Google, as the original was modified when the complaints arose.:

4. Recruiting Coordinators Are Expected to Be Presentable, and in Many Cases They Will Be Expected to Be Attractive (Most Are in Their Early 20s to 30s) If you have not noticed by now, most legal recruiters are women, and most are quite attractive and fit. This is because they are in positions that involve public relations--sort of like an on-air television newscaster. There is nothing wrong with the fact that most law firms put people like this in these positions because they are the public face of the law firm. What is problematical, though, is that some of these people can also--occasionally--be a little ditzy and not have the other sorts of qualifications that would make them qualified for the job. Not only do they sometimes have more beauty and fewer brains, but they also may have more beauty and less interest in people, less ability to connect with people, and similar negative characteristics. This means they expect people to treat them as if they are special and sometimes are more focused on themselves than their jobs. It is not uncommon for recruiting coordinators to use their workspaces as a hunting ground for mates--and it works. Many recruiting coordinators marry (or get married to) associates and partners inside of the law firm. This is what happens when attractive and successful people are put in confined spaces 10 hours a day. Once a legal recruiting coordinator gets close to an associate or partner in the firm, the recruiting coordinator may start playing favorites--and often does. People who are close to the associate or partner may get special treatment when applying to the firm, for example. If there is tension in the job of the associate or partner (i.e., getting fired, getting a bad performance review, or leaving), this can affect the performance of the recruiting coordinator a great deal.

Oh, that's really not good, especially when significant clients say as much in comments on the piece. And especially when one group of potential clients you're trying to reach is heavily female.

"These are not [meant to be] stereotypes," Barnes told me in a phone call. "[All the items in the article are] observations of some things I've seen. It doesn't mean it's true about everybody." As he said, in any industry as large as law, there are going to be people who are bad at their job. "The fact that there are a few people that might be considered incompetent, that's just a fact," he said. "Honestly, I've seen far more many incompetent attorneys than I've seen incompetent people in the recruiting roles."

Unfortunately, that's not how the piece read to many. Even though multiple people in the BCG office reviewed the post, as they always do, the offensive material ran. Then came the attention from the legal press, ensuring that issue wouldn't go away.

Any time you make a remark that could be offensive to prospects or customers, you're in trouble. Remove the remark, apologize, and you may still have tainted an impression. There are three steps that Barnes and BCG could have taken in addition to having multiple in house look at the piece that could have helped catch the problem.

  • Always review something yourself. Barnes had trusted the people in his office to look at the article and post it. Perhaps he was the source of the mistake. Maybe someone else was. In any case, read through one last time before something goes live.
  • Write it ahead of deadline. Many people put off writing until the last minute. That's the biggest way for mistakes -- including big ones that will gore you -- to creep in. Always have time for some reflection so you can edit thoughtfully. You're also best off to take the final review at least a day after you last looked at it.
  • Get some professional outside help. People in your company can be too close to material to catch mistakes. Sadly, there may be some employees looking to cause damage. An editing professional from outside of your company who has experience in the industry or type of material you're trying to produce gives an extra degree of disinterested examination.
Published on: May 2, 2017