Last night I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I noticed a sponsored ad that was being promoted by a colleague and someone we had engaged to undertake some consulting work for our businesses. I was intrigued, so I clicked through to find out more only to see that the lead magnet giveaway he was using to attract clients to his new program was created by us and provided to assist him in understanding our business as part of engaging him.

Needless to say, I was disappointed as we had given him this content in good faith to assist him with setting up and growing his business. For those readers who know us well, you will know that we are constantly giving our intellectual property (IP) away to others to assist them to improve their projects, businesses or themselves. However, I’m still puzzled as to whether we should be flattered that they want to copy our content, or annoyed when they extend that to claiming it to be their own?

I had a similar experience recently with LinkedIn. I received my usual daily feed of articles that had been posted within a group I am a member of, when again something caught my interest. A blog had been posted that looked familiar, so I clicked through to have a read. Turns out the content within the blog and the image had been taken from a blog that I had previously written. As I didn’t know this person who wrote the ‘copied’ blog, I couldn’t contact them outside social media, so I wrote a constructive comment to them within the LinkedIn group where the blog was posted. I was not surprised that they didn’t publish my comment, but I was surprised that they then took my comments and posted them to come from someone else within the same group!

I’m not naïve enough to think that someone isn’t going to copy our IP, or that it will only happen in emerging countries where innovative ideas and technology are constantly being replicated. The message I want to convey within this blog is to make sure you do your homework on business coaches, service providers and consultants who you are planning to engage. There are a lot of what some would call ‘marketing and business experts’ who have the ability and knowledge to sell almost anything online, however most of them are just that. Marketing experts. They take knowledge and IP from others and claim it as their own to promote themselves and their knowledge and ability. They make a few quick dollars with very little intention to be in it for the long term or to build an outstanding reputation.

I would like to acknowledge that many business coaches, advisors and consultants often use other’s ideas and content to achieve outcomes for their clients, where the ultimate aim is to share knowledge and improve. We are no different, as we do this too. But provide credit where credit is due. You have to acknowledge the source of the information through a clear reference to that individual or organisation.

So the question remains. Should I be flattered? I’m not sure. I like to think that those who are able to build a successful business in the longer term, have to have integrity to do what is right for the long term and not cut corners for a short term gain. Without integrity, you are never going to be able to build credibility or a reputation built on relationships and trust. It reminds me of a great saying by Warren Buffet that highlights this key point “It can take you twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”.  Make sure you take this into account when looking at what IP you are putting out in to the marketplace by acknowledging the source and doing what is right.