How To Become a Forbes Councils Member


While there’s plenty of competition from new outlets like Cheddar and Business Insider, Forbes is still one of the most influential business media brands in the world.

As a result of their annual power lists, Forbes has an enormous brand cachet.

It is a symbol of success and wealth, but it's also so much more.

It's a community, helping business leaders across a wide variety of industries connect and grow. Not to mention, share their hard-earned business insights with a captive audience of business professionals.

One way in which Forbes has embraced community-building is through Forbes Councils which, for select leaders, offers a powerful platform for business success by offering members access to visibility, connections, and growth.

I recently spoke to Ryan Paugh, COO / Co-Founder of The Community Company and the coauthor of Superconnector.

In 2016, his company partnered with Forbes to launch Forbes Councils.

This is not a Forbes Council Review. I am not a member so I have no first hand experience. But it is an interview with one if it's founders, and its sheds light on the benefits of Forbes Council membership.

Community Matters, Now More Than Ever

In talking with Ryan, one of the common themes that came up was the importance of surrounding yourself with the right group of people if you want to be successful. We discussed Malcom Gladwell's Outliers and how the highest achievers maneuver a finite group of very exceptional people around them.

We also discussed how incredibly difficult this is to achieve in our modern-day social media era without some form of curation.

Superconnector, the book Ryan co-wrote with his business partner Scott Gerber, touches on many of the same principles.

They make a point to debunk the fallacy of “bigger is better” and actually dare readers to shrink the size of their inner circle. Scott even wrote a piece about this in the Harvard Business Review

That's one of the things that The Community Company focuses on with all of its projects, including Forbes Councils.

Everything is by invitation only and applications are vetted by several members of their internal selection committee. In most cases, you're also going to pick up the phone and talk to a member of their team.

Share Your Insights & Expertise

When Ryan and I spoke, we touched upon their company's thesis: why thought leadership is so important. When you publish and share valuable, non-promotional content on a regular basis, it builds credibility, which then creates more business opportunities.

When it comes to thought leadership on Forbes Councils, an editorial staff works with members to develop high quality content. Based on a comprehensive set of guidelines, member articles get published on as a Council Post. 

Because it is a paid program, you are not becoming a Forbes contributor.

Forbes Councils’ editorial staff reviews all submissions, not the Forbes editorial staff.

The frequency in which a member can publish depends on a few things. First is the quality of the writing and the creativity of the content. Is it well thought out? Is it succinct? Is it interesting and credible?

Second is their content approval process, which on average runs four to six weeks. So even if you’re firing on all cylinders, the reviewing process definitely slows things down.

Forbes Councils provides editorial support to help helps develop top notch thought leadership content.

Though, as Ryan points out, members often overlook the time it takes because of the value they get from working with a professional editor who can help them craft their ideas into a well-written piece of work that readers enjoy.

Forbes Councils has members who publish only several times a year and keep returning because they see immense value in the opportunity. For the right person, it’s a great value.

Curated Business Connections & Growth

Forbes Councils also offers a wealth of opportunities to build your network, get mentored by industry peers, and achieve a higher level of business results. 

One of the ways they do this is through a private, members-only app where members post business challenges and opportunities for each other, which in the crowded world of mainstream social media is a welcomed change of pace.

Forbes Councils also regularly hosts meet-ups for their members, which nowadays mostly happen virtually, and are focused on bringing industry-specific and geography-specific groups together for more intimate peer masterminds.

In a post COVID-19 world, in-person events will happen again, too, through a volunteer-based program where tenured members help the community facilitate regional get-togethers.

If your business needs more hands-on support from an accredited expert, a stable of certified business growth coaches are available and offer consultative sessions as part of your membership. If you want to engage a coach in regular sessions, an additional fee to retain them can be added into your membership.

What To Look For In a Business Community

CMX Summit 2019

According to Ryan, the best membership communities promote generosity and goodwill among members. The technology and the platform you use aren’t nearly as important as the tone you set as a community leader. The people are the product.

In terms of other organizations operating communities that do it right, Ryan particularly likes the Community for Community Builders or CMX run by David Spinks which was acquired by Bevy last year.

Also worth noting, in this Fast Company article, where Ryan shares three things to look for in your search for the perfect community as well as some other examples of organizations that are doing it right.


We're living in unpredictable economic times. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are anxious and working harder than ever before to keep the lights on, but there's still hope.

Strength in numbers, and we're not talking Facebook-sized numbers, is offering business executives and entrepreneurs the support they need to keep their businesses afloat.

The difference between success and failure may truly be in the power of community. Whether it's Forbes Councils, or a similar type of investment, maybe we should all stop and think about what communities we should be leaning into.

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