The last few weeks I was out of town and didn't get to dedicate as much time to writing content as I normally would. Rather than throw some half-ass posts out, I knew that it was a holiday season for many of my readers as well and I simply chose not to write daily. After a decade of writing, that's the kind of thing that drives me crazy – writing is simply a part of who I am, not just what I do.
Many people really struggle with writing content. Some have difficulty with perfecting their words, others have a difficult time thinking of what to write, and still others just don't like it. Content is becoming the heartbeat of almost every online marketing effort… and keeping that beat going can be quite a challenge.
Unfortunately, knowing great content is the path to building their business – some people simply go steal it. And it seems to becoming more prevalent.
Mark Schaeffer recently wrote on Facebook:
After being immersed in this digital world for many years I've determined that plagiarism is a legitimate career path. Even some of the top “gurus” have built their brands by stealing shit. Nobody seems to notice or care. Enough evidence has accumulated to declare that this a viable way to succeed. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to know this world is real and how little ethics or critical thinking matter any more.
Here is my theory. Years ago people who were not very capable could still thrive in business through connections and politics. On the web, none of that works. So to survive, they have to steal the content and ideas of others to appear authoritative and smart. The Internet is so vast and the churn is so great that being a fake can work for a long time, even if some people figure it out. This is the new business model.
Steve Woodruff also noted with sarcasm:
Content/marketing geeks keep talking about Paid, Owned, and Earned media. Everyone is ignoring Borrowed, Hijacked, and Disgraced media. I think there may be a business opportunity there…
Not too long ago, I also remember Tom Webster displaying where someone had removed the logo of his company from some distributed charts as they shared them around the Internet.
If you've been a reader of this blog for long, you'll notice I share a ton of other people's content. I curate content virtually every day – from pitches, from friends, and from infographics and presentations. I link directly back to their sites, quote their names within the content (as I did above) and even push my audience to seek out these other sources of knowledge.
My audience values the content… whether or not I'm the source of that content does not matter to them. In fact, I believe the fact that I introduce them to so many industry experts, brands, products and services that my trust and authority has grown even more with my readers.
And it's not just the value in the message that I'm carrying from them to you, it's also the respect and camaraderie within the industry that pays dividends back to me. Too many people look at their industry peers as competition when they should really look at them as mentors, educators, resources and even industry friends.
It's my belief that providing credit for other peoples' ideas and words isn't just the right thing to do, it also provides your readers with an impression of who you are as a person. That content you're thinking about borrowing from or stealing outright is just temporary… but your integrity and the impression you make on others will remain with you for much longer.
Once you lose someone's trust, it's virtually impossible ever to get it back. Almost every day I receive requests to utilize the content we have produced – some in books, in posters, in whitepapers, etc. I have never refused when asked and I've never charged anyone to do so. I'm thankful just to be reaching a new and wider audience. And almost every week, I find my content on sites that steal it and I do everything in my power to stop them. I won't do business or help those people… ever.
So… the next time you're stuck and are looking to borrow the content or even just the ideas or premise that someone else has worked to create, instead share it and give the creator the spotlight! You'd be surprised at how well it works, how good it feels, and the respect and admiration you receive from your peers.
And you don't have to sacrifice your integrity to do it.