by Jami Weisbender on October 4, 2013

It’s a deceptively simple piece of advice: Don’t be a dirty plagiarist.

But it’s applicable no matter what line of work you’re in, and no matter what kind of content you’re writing. For our purposes, we’re talking about your marketing content — the words that show up on your website, brochures, videos, mailers and such. But it also applies to ideas, images and any old thing you write: novels, thank you notes, love letters. Especially love letters.

Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person.” (See how I gave credit to Merriam-Webster right there?)

In case you’re inclined to believe that everything on the Internet is free for the taking, here are a handful of reasons why you should not, in fact, be a dirty plagiarist.

1) It ain’t right.
Let’s start with a relatively obvious reason. Stealing other people’s work isn’t cool.

But why on earth, you think to yourself, would anyone need to be told this? Aren’t we all grown-ups who know good and well not to cheat?

In theory: yes. In actuality: no.

The problem is that in the age of the Internet, a whole lot of people began thinking that whatever they find online is public domain — photos, content, logos. When so much information is shared, passed around, tagged, and retweeted, the idea of ownership can get a little murky.

After all, tools like Pinterest, YouTube and Tumblr pretty much revolve around borrowing. You share something someone else wrote or designed, and claim it as part of your identity. But while it’s sometimes considered OK to post (with permission, and the appropriate credit) a picture you didn’t take, it’s definitely not OK to present an idea, an image, or a piece of writing as something you created…if you didn’t.

2) You’ll get caught.
Pesky ethical arguments aside, stealing content is bad for business. The Internet is a great big world, but it’s a well-traveled one — and chances are, someone will catch you.

Particularly with people becoming more and more SEO savvy, businesses are constantly monitoring their own search results…and those of competitors. There are also plenty of online tools to check whether your content is being lifted and used on another site. (We’ve heard of www.copyscape.com, for example, but we mostly rely on Google.)

Intellectual property is a tricky thing to prove, but just being suspected of plagiarism can discredit an organization and irreparably damage its reputation.

Don’t believe plagiarists get caught? Read what happened when someone sold a stolen logo to a small donut shop in our hometown of Manhattan, Kansas.

3) This is your chance to stand out.
The whole point of your marketing is to set yourself apart. If you’re ripping off someone else, you’re missing the chance to distinguish yourself from every other Joe and schmo out there.

Your logo, tagline, web content, and printed materials should reflect exactly what your business or organization is, and why it’s different from (and better than) its competitors. Everything — tone, style, format — should be customized to that identity. If you’re not up to the challenge, but you’ve been muddling through anyway (cursing the inventor of the written word, and your eighth-grade English teacher), the next reason is going to blow your mind.

4) You can pay someone to write for you.
Unlike your collegiate days when buying term papers was frowned upon, you’re a professional now. Paying others to perform a service isn’t cheating; it’s outsourcing. And it’s completely aboveboard. How great is that?!

Most people hate to write. And when faced with the prospect of writing a bunch of content for their organization, many panic. In desperation, they find something online that vaguely fits the bill, pull a trusty copy-and-paste move, and call it a day.

The fact is that you’re better off doing what you do really well, and hiring other people to do the rest. (This also holds true in house building, auto repair, and singing telegrams.)

Recap
• Stealing content? Not cool.
• Inevitably getting caught? Bad for business.
• Despising writing? Totally normal.
• Hiring people to write good content for you? Genius.

Go ahead — google what I wrote. I thought of every word myself.

Need writers? Call New Boston — we have a whole mess of ‘em.