When Flattery Becomes Plagiarism…

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Recently I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed and a very familiar looking blog popped up.  Now, the reason it was so familiar to me was because I wrote it.  Yes, my own words.  However, the post about it wasn’t a link to my blog. Or even me. Someone had taken my blog, changed a few words around and claimed it as their own.  Sections of their post were identical, and they hadn’t even bothered to change the title.  There was no reference to me or my blog. It was an imposter!

At first I was annoyed, then I was intrigued.  What makes someone want to copy you and pass off as their own?  I debated about naming and shaming them, putting both blogs on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and outing them to over 10,000 people, but thought better of it.  I emailed the “author”.  It does however raise a good point – when does the flattery of being imitated become plagiarism?

I don’t think that many of us can say we have never looked at another company’s job adverts, social media, recruitment campaigns and the like to generate ideas from them, to gain an understanding of what our competitors are doing in the marketplace.  Can you?  I know I can’t.  As a young recruiter learning the ropes in agency land I know I looked at other job adverts to gain ideas and potential structures.  And once I moved to the big world of internal and started setting up the employer brand for Youi in NZ there was SO much out in the marketplace to learn from.

If you are using someone else’s work word for word (or almost) a quick email to them to ask permission to use it with credit to them is normally enough.  Had this “author” cited me in their post I would have been absolutely happy for her to use it on her website.  However, if you’re straight copying a job advert or marketing campaign I’m not sure that the author is going to be so giving – I’d encourage you to take the idea and improve it or customise it to your brand, business and values.  If you don’t you could be in a little hot water, and also missing out on an opportunity to take to best practice ideas and grow your own from them – sometimes this can produce the best results for you!

We don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time we work on something as a profession, but if you plan on copying what everyone else is doing you are going to get left behind.  Innovation is key to recruitment and staying one step ahead.  We all know how important it is to stay relevant and be leading the way in digital, recruitment strategy and employer brand awareness.

The final update on the blog plagiarism?  Three days after my email was sent the blog post was down.  I’m still yet to receive a reply to my email – and I don’t think I will get one. But I’m happy with the outcome.  Next time however, I may not be so cool about it.

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