Why Companies Really Lose When They Underpay Their Workers

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If ever there was an article that summarized what it’s like to be a writer in today’s marketplace of content creation and management—and everything that’s wrong with that picture—it was a recent blog post I read over at the Content Strategist.

The author’s point was that companies lose when they turn writers into bulk content producers who work for mere peanuts. Despite Bill Gates’ dictum that “content is king,” publishers have flooded the scene with high-volume, low-quality content. They may say content is king, but payroll tells the real story.

As a result, editorial and creative teams are often poorly staffed, underpaid, work long hours and are expected to produce a continuous stream of generic material. It’s all about bulk pageviews and page numbers, which theoretically translate into sellable ad impressions.

The problem, of course, is that you get what you pay for. It’s hard to expect your writers to turn out award-winning, attention-grabbing content when you pay them next to nothing and put way too much on their plate. Sadly, that’s a reality for a lot of brands, including many of the ones I’ve worked for.

Quality suffers and, not surprisingly, consumers lose trust in your brand because they instinctively know when they’re being duped with crap content. You’re not giving them what they came for—you’re wasting their time. And they know it. Most people have an intuitive spam filter that sifts out the shlock.

I liken it to the feeling you get when you’re browsing through Redbox or Netflix titles and, just when you think you’ve found a winner, you realize it’s a cheap C movie spinoff. The front of the DVD case looks a lot like The Dark Knight Rises, but instead it has a title like “A Knight in the Darkness.” Not many sober people are gonna watch the pseudo-Batman knockoff with a subpar Vietnamese cast and a zero star rating, especially when they were given a bait-and-switch.

But it’s not just content publishers. A lot of people take this view on many different issues. For example, as a parent I always marvel when other parents complain about the attention their kid got at daycare or at a public school. I mean honestly, what did you expect? A lot of teachers and daycare workers are paid at pitiful rates, and you really think your kids are gonna get world-class, one-on-one care? Think again. You get what you pay for. 

A lot of this shortsightedness, I would argue, is a product of corporate and personal greed. I can testify from firsthand experience there are multi-million dollar companies that do tens of millions of dollars of sales a year and then pay their content producers—the ones who make those blockbuster deals possible—just barely above the U.S. national poverty guidelines.

The good news is this: If you want to stand out, all you’ve got to do is invest in quality people who produce quality products, services or content. For those willing—and brave enough—to swim upstream, there’s a place for you to shine.

At the end of the day quality wins, but not many people are willing to invest in it. Lots of people want quick, easy money, but not many are willing to pay the price to be great. Lots of people envy the way someone like Peyton Manning has dominated the NFL, for example, but few will ever pay the price he has to achieve their goal.

You know, that Bill Gates guy had a winning strategy after all: hire the best people, pay them well and watch as everyone else tried to keep up. Long term success isn’t a secret—it’s just a path many are unwilling to take. Take the better path—pay the right people well. Pay the price to be excellent.

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