Why Blogging is Essential to Your Brand

It’s near the end of 2018, your business is running smoothly, your branding is on point, and you’re doing what you love… but you’re wondering: do I need a blog, too?

This is a common question from entrepreneurs, who usually have the same three obstacles: time, money, and not knowing what to write about.

The short answer? Yes, your business needs a blog.

You can skate by without one, but ultimately, the reasons to have one outweigh the time, effort, and money you might save by skipping it.

The basic reasons? You need to establish authority with two parties: Google and your target audience. Basically, it’s not enough to be an authority in your field. You need to make sure people know it, too.

At any given time, people are out there looking for information. And if you have it and you’re not making it available, you’re losing out!

Let’s Talk About Google

Google is one tool to get in front of an audience. Basically, to make use of it, you need to make yourself available, and that means putting out content that people are looking for.

Your goal with Google is to put out “lures” in the form of valuable information your target audience actually wants. This helps you to rank with Google, which rewards you with gradually higher and higher search result placement. The more valuable Google deems your info, the higher you’ll rank, and the greater audience you’ll reach.

Blogs are also great to use as part of your social media strategy, which also direct traffic your way. If you’re an authority in your field, you can also benefit from inbound links, which are simply when others reference your work. You can buy this kind of traffic, but building your reputation and attracting quality inbound links is key.

Your Brand’s Personality

You’ve spent so much time and effort designing your brand’s personality, and blogging is a great way to let it shine. “Humanizing” your brand to an audience helps make you more likeable, more authoritative, more relatable, more human. And that’s what resonates with customers and builds trust.

As you build trust, you gain authority. Think about where you go to find info you need right now, and why you go there. Is it a friend? A trusted mentor? A brand with history, authority, or pizzaz? It’s the same on the other side.

So What Do I Write About?

You’re a subject matter expert. You might be a good writer, too. That doesn’t mean you have to spend your own time writing. But you do want to mine your own experience for subjects or topics that will be relevant to your audience.

You may already be bursting with ideas. If you’re stumped, start by thinking about something you’ve explained in detail recently. How would you break it down simply for an audience?

Alternately, you can just jot down topics related to your discipline and come back to them a bit later. You can read other blogs for inspiration. You can imagine your platform as a way to talk about current events.

Really, the sky’s the limit.

Are you blogging now? Let us know how it’s going in the comments!

Our 7 most popular branding blog posts

Fonts, mood boards, touchpoints, attributes: branding can be a complex process. If you’re new to branding, we’ve put together a list of some of our most popular branding blogs from the recent past to help you on your way.

How to make a mood board

Mood boards can be elusive. Most people more or less understand what they are, but are less clear on why they need one and what they can look forward to in the process. This post explains what a mood board is and what it does, when you should make a mood board, and how you can do so. This is a great starting point for those who are looking to crystallize the “mood” of their brand and a reference for those who are starting the Visual Identity process.

How to find a font that matches your personality

This is a fun, visual post breaking down 23 fonts you may or may not know. Fonts are critical to brand identity, and you need to know what kind of message your fonts might send. If you want to create an effective brand, you need to create a cohesive, comprehensive experience for your audience. Knowing fonts is a key element.

Building a brand of affordable luxury

This post both explains the concept of affordable luxury and teaches you how to achieve it. Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and other fashion names used the concept to propel them toward massive profit from slumping sales. We detail some of the key takeaways you can use in your own branding and brand messaging.

Branding vs Design

These two concepts can be easily confused, especially if neither is what you do. This post helps to break down the finer distinctions between the two. Think of the brand strategist as the architect of the brand, and the designer as the contractor who puts that design into physical being. Learn more about why it matters to you.

Are you using your archetype?

Jungian archetypes come up frequently when we talk about branding. They help provide a framework for bringing your brand to visually, in writing, and in presence. They’re an essential part of branding, plus… they’re fun!

Here a touchpoint, there a touchpoint, everywhere a touchpoint!

A branding touchpoint is more or less exactly what it sounds like: the points where you come in contact with your target audience. This post outlines strategies for both making those points happen, and what to do at those points.

Brand Attributes

This post has everything to do with the perception of quality. Brands of similar or equal value need to set up ways of differentiating themselves, or risk being seen as the inferior product despite the raw quality. Learn more about what you can do to create a perception of high quality.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!

You CAN say that!

Know your audience, know your message.

Here’s something we sometimes hear when working with clients on verbal identity: “I can’t say that”. Those three little words might be rattling around in your head, too, when thinking about your brand’s voice. And they need to chill out!

This is bigger than just your brand, of course, but for the sake of this article, we want to try to shake “I can’t” from your vocabulary when talking about your brand.

Obviously, there are some topics you would be best-served to avoid, and we all know what they are. But there’s so much people avoid saying out of a sense of “is this appropriate”, “Is this professional”, or “will I lose customers”.

If you’re hesitating, hemming and hawing, or otherwise feeling like you’re walking on eggshells when speaking in your brand voice—you’re in the right place.

Once you’re able to answer questions like “who is my brand speaking to” and “how do I speak to them”, this becomes an easier task.

 

Don’t make it weird.

You know those moments when you’re at dinner with new people, and you’re not saying a whole lot because you’re going over all the ways you could accidentally offend someone?  Your brand does the same thing. It avoids interacting, and sounds stilted when it does try. And your audience picks up on this! Knowing who you’re speaking to and what kind of messaging (from the world, from other brands) they’re used to will help you avoid situations like this.

 

Don’t contain multitudes.

This is the uncomfortable sense you get when your brand has grown in a direction that feels like a giant, fire breathing amalgamation of every voice that’s ever been involved in your brand, EVER. Your brand feels like an oversized Katamari ball. And when you’re trying to say everything, your message is diluted down to nothing. This leaves your audience feeling confused, overwhelmed… generally uncomfortable. If they’re not moving away from you exactly, it’s only a matter of time before something calm and soothing that feels like it’s speaking directly to them sweeps them off their feet – and they’re gone.

 

Focus on the positive

In some cases, there are things your brand simply cannot say. In this situation, it’s best to acknowledge them, take them off the table, and focus on what you CAN say. It can be tempting to comment on every trending topic, but it’s just not always appropriate. So rather than focus on what your children’s book company has to say about Stormy Daniels, save it for your personal conversations, and keep

Sometimes it’s just a matter of feeling like you have permission to, say, use expletives in your marketing, or permission to take a pass on politics when you’re just not a political company. If your audience is younger, or you’re a company like Cards Against Humanity—hell yeah, you absolutely should be swearing!

Do any of these scenarios ring true to you? If you’re struggling with questions of voice and audience, we can help. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Top 3 ways to tell if your brand is worth anything (or not).

LEARN HOW TO VALUE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS BRAND.

There haven’t been many articles on how to value a small business brand, because it is hard, and brand value is one of the most important assets any company can have! For instance, what do you think would happen if Red Bull sold its brand name and logo to Coca Cola but kept its manufacturing and distribution? What about if Ferrari sold its brand name and logo to Mazda but kept its manufacturing and dealership businesses?

Would either of these companies stay in business for long without their brands? Probably not, unless they used the money from the sales to build new brands. The point here is that the brand is the keystone to many, many different business models. It is the MOST valuable asset, and one that pays long term dividends.

So, do you want to know how to a small business brand? Here are our 3 steps for getting the number just right and learning how much you might be able to get for the brand that you’ve been building…

  1. What percentage of your new business comes purely from self-motivated customer referrals, and how much in sales does this amount to each year? Note: This is the amount of sales that you spend NOTHING to achieve each year in marketing or in advertising.
    • Subtract your cost of goods or services sold from the referral sales number above, and you will have one measure of the profitability of your brand.
  2. What percentage of your business comes purely from self-motivated or minimally motivated returning customers?
    • Subtract your cost of goods or services sold, and you will have another measure of the profitability of your brand.
  3. How large is your audience? Add it all up! Of all of the social media networks and list building mediums that you’ve been working on over the years, you have probably built up an impressive collection of people who are familiar with your brand, and it is easy to figure out the value of this audience, IF you have the data. Lists to include are…

    Email list:

    Mobile Phone List:

    Postal Address List:

    Facebook:

    WhatsApp:

    Messenger:

    LinkedIn:

    Google+:

    Twitter:

    Instagram:

    Pinterest:

    Snapchat:

    Quora:

    AngelList:

    Tumblr:

    TripAdvisor:

    Yelp:

    YouTube:

    • For each audience on your list above, add up the amount in sales that each list has generated for your business over the last year (in DIRECT sales to that list, as a result of outreach to that list, on that network or medium that the list is compiled within). This number is a great indicator what each of your lists could produce in future sales!

Ok, so how does this help you know how to value a small business brand? Simple. Now that you have your 3 number totals from referral sales, returning customers and list sales, add them up and you will have an estimation of the sales that your brand produces without much (if any) sales or marketing activity. This annual revenue is THE major piece of your brand’s value.

A purchaser of your brand might take this number and multiply it by a decimal, like .7, annually over the next 3 to 5 years to see just how much revenue your brand is capable of driving without any intervention. The .7 number simply assumes that the revenue will go down on its own over time.. Then the investor would give you a purchase offer based on this revenue. The revenue from these three things is purely attributable to the power of the brand that you have built, and it is what gives your brand value.

If you are unimpressed with your results, LET’S TALK! Brand value is the best retirement plan that an entrepreneur can hope for, and we can help you sail off into the golden years with ease!

 

You don’t NEED a Personal Brand

IS BUILDING A PERSONAL BRAND THE MOST PROFITABLE STRATEGY FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

 

Building a personal brand seems to be an increasingly growing hot topic for entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and employees, particularly because it’s commonplace to find well-heeled articles online, including Entrepreneur’s 5 Reasons Personal Branding is Non-Negotiable for 2018 or Inc. Magazine’’s How to Build a Personal Brand (and Why You Need One)! And, even this Forbes article that teaches 7 Things You Can Do To Build An Awesome Personal Brand.

As a branding agency, with a name like ours, we often get asked if we specialize in personal branding (perhaps the term ‘people’ signals this perception). The truth of the matter is that we build brands. To be technical, we build business brands.

Here’s the thing. You don’t NEED to start building a personal brand.

You may WANT a personal brand, but this post is about helping you decide whether or not you NEED one.

Let’s explain. Since we primarily speak to entrepreneurs and small business owners, we will address this in the context of these audiences.

Below are 4 important and strategic questions to ask yourself BEFORE drinking the Kool-Aid that you MUST build a personal brand — and certainly before you hire someone who claims to help you build your personal brand.

 

Question #1: WHY do you want to create a personal brand?

Let’s get crystal clear on the motivation to create a personal brand. Has anyone ever asked you WHY you want a personal brand in the first place? Or have you fully clarified what you want a Personal Brand to do for you? Here are some questions to explore:

Do you want a personal brand to help you:

  • Launch a new business or expand an existing one?
  • Get booked on speaking gigs?
  • Sell your services to new clients?
  • Sell your books or products to new customers?
  • Position yourself as an expert or thought leader?


If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, the good news is you’re already off to a good start to potentially needing a personal brand. If you answered “no” to most or all of these questions — and you simply want to have a personal brand just for the fame and glory, we’ll caution you right now, your personal branding efforts will have a short shelf life.

That said, we have more questions to explore…

 

Question #2: Are you willing to invest time AND money into building a personal brand (at the expense of building your business brand?)

This question is vital because oftentimes people embark on building a personal brand and don’t really think through the various costs to do so. Personal branding is an ongoing process and journey that takes time, money, and energy — daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.

Remember, the truest indicator of a real business brand is that a business can generate revenue with AND without the founder (who is typically appointed the personal brand). If your business CAN’T do that, then maybe what you’ve been doing all this time is actually building a personal brand!

If your business can operate, grow and scale without you, and you’re still weighing the idea of building a personal brand, ask yourself if your business will benefit by having a personal brand MORE than it will benefit by focusing on building the business brand. Where is your time most profitably spent? As a branding agency committed to inspiring you to create a memorable AND profitable brand, we advise you to focus your energy on that which will best meet your business goals and your ultimate end-game. Why? Because building a personal brand takes patience, endurance, and intention. Your time is limited, so you should choose wisely.

Another question to ask yourself…

“Is a personal brand more important to me than a business brand?”

How can you tell? Well you can always tell what’s important to you when you look at two things: your calendar and your bank statements. Look at where you’re spending your time and money and that will give you insight as to what’s most important to you.

If you’re not willing to put the time in AND put your money where your mouth is to build a personal brand, you might want to rethink personal branding as your long-term strategy in your playbook.

A third option (there is always another option, right?) is to do what our private client Malorie Tadimi of Tadimi.com did. She built a personal brand in the context of her business brand. In other words, she built a business, while also making sure her services and methodologies could be delivered by her team, and not her. Even though her business name caries her last name, her brand isn’t about her per se. Similar to the likes of Ford or Chanel. Once Malorie created the business (and the business brand to support it), it then made sense for her to express her personal brand by hiring a stylist and photographer to capture images of her that best expresses her credibility and personality.

 

Question #3: How much do you want your personal brand to be the reason your client or customer buys your product or service?

It is no doubt that we buy from people we trust, like and respect. And, there are many personal brands such as Steve Jobs, Oprah, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk who can influence and impact our buying decisions. However, while aspirational, not every entrepreneur will achieve the same level of these extraordinary powerhouses.

For the majority of entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s more important to build a business brand — a brand that is centered around a business, product, program, or service. If you use this approach, you’ll establish a precedent that your clients and customers are buying your products, programs or services because of the trust you’ve build in the brand itself, not just because of you. This is far more long-term thinking and transcends the power of personal branding in it of itself.

So, ask yourself, how much do you really want your sales to be predicated on the strength of your personal brand (as opposed to the strength of your business brand)?

 

Question #4: Will your personal brand help you scale or eventually sell your business?

This question is similar to #3. However, the distinction here is about scaling or selling your business (not just about generating sales or revenue).

If your brand relies primarily on you, the ability to scale or sell your business will always be correlated with the strength (and weaknesses) of the attributes of your personal brand. And, the degree to which your values are aligned with the values of the personal brand. We all know that we’re likely to buy from companies who have CEOs that admire, respect and love. Conversely, we may not buy from companies who have CEOs we strongly disrespect and hate (we know that’s a strong word, but think about it, have you ever discontinued buying from a company because you hated the CEO or founder — or what he or she represented or stood for?

Another angle to think about is whether or not your company would fall apart without you at the helm? If you get sick, will your company be ill as well? If you want other leaders in your company to be part of your company’s growth plan, then it would better serve you to have a brand that’s not just about you. Instead, build a brand that is about a bigger mission, purpose, or movement.

For example, our friend and client, Tucker Max, a New York Times Best-Selling Author of several controversial and entertaining non-fiction books including I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First, strategically launched and scaled an entirely new business and brand (Book in a Box) which has nothing to do with his own personal brand as Tucker Max.

Rather than relying on the positive and/or negatives of his personal brand, Tucker created Book in a Box with a bigger purpose and mission —  to unlock the world’s wisdom through a new book creation process that avoids the time-consuming and painful nature of traditional writing and publishing.

Tucker can’t sell his personal brand as an author, unless it is just the royalties, which probably won’t continue to grow unless he authors another book, but he can certainly sell Book in a Box if he chooses to. And that business brand can certainly grow with or without Tucker Max, the personal brand.

 

TAKEAWAY

Personal branding can be an important and game-changing strategy to grow your business, but it comes with some pros and cons. Before embarking upon building a personal brand, take a step back and determine whether or not building one will help or hurt your long-term business strategy, scaling strategy, or exit strategy.

 

If you want to explore how we can help you build either a business or personal brand, let’s have a conversation.

Professional Is Not A Personality

If you’re trying to make a brand promise around your professionalism, you’re not trying hard enough.

Do you make money for what you do? Congratulations. You’re a professional—but that says nothing about your brand promise.

It means you’re competent. Maybe even skilled.

But it doesn’t make you intriguing, unique or different from your competitors. You could be the most professional person in the world—and actually be incredibly boring to your customers.

 

What your brand promise is—and isn’t

Here’s a secret: in most buying situations, quality is assumed. So is professionalism.

We assume that when we hire an electrician, the light switch will turn on. We assume that when we buy a car the brakes will work.

And that means being “good” isn’t good enough. Your brand can’t just be “professional”—because you’re not the only professional on the block.

By building a brand personality on professionalism, what you’re doing is promoting your credibility. You’re making the argument that buying from you makes logical sense.

These are valid arguments to make, and they DO matter in the eyes of your potential customers.

But a brand promise based on credibility and logic is both boring and weak.

 

Aristotle hated “professional”, too

Noted Greek philosopher Aristotle posited that a solid argument—and argument here means any defensible position, such as a belief or, yes, a brand promise—is based on 3 pillars:

  • Ethos (Credibility)
  • Logos (Logic)
  • Pathos (Emotion)

Professionalism only appeals to logic and credibility, which means, by Aristotle’s definition, any appeal to professionalism will fail.

Let’s make things more concrete with an example.

Let’s say you are a financial planner, and a good one.

A professional.

We all want a financial planner who knows what they are doing—in other words, one that’s credible. And we want one who can make us money—that makes logical sense to hire.

That all sounds well and good, and as a professional financial planner you can deliver on that brand promise.

But without injecting emotion into your brand promise, you’ll only end up telling prospective clients that a financial planner is a wise investment—not that they need YOU.

You’ve successfully advertised for your industry, not for your company.

Aristotle would have HATED that.

 

Your brand promise needs to make an emotional connection

Your competence at delivering your service or the value built into your product is just a single one of the factors that people take into consideration when making a purchase.

But as we said above, prospects already assume you’re good at what you do.

Customers want an emotional connection with you and your brand. They want to know who you are, what you care about, and what you stand for so that they can self-identify with you.

They want to know you understand not only their life, but also the pain they’re going through or the challenge they’re facing, before they’ll ever agree to let you help them.

Only when you share your history (both good and bad) and your personality with your customers will you start to connect with people on an emotional level—and will your brand promise hit home.

This emotional connection is much stronger than a logical connection, or one rooted in credibility, or even a combination of both.

And this is why your brand promise can’t hinge on being “professional.”

 

Takeaway

By all means be good at what you do. (It’s assumed you are.) Be prompt, courteous, and wear a tailored suit everyday if you feel it conveys professionalism.

But just know that in order for your brand to resonate, it has to promise more.

Brand relevance: How to get it (and keep it)

Brand relevance can be elusive—but it’s easier than you might think to stay top of mind.

How does a brand stay dominant in a world of constant competition—and one in which a PR disaster seems to lurk around every corner? Brand relevance.

Think of brand relevance as a stool on which your happy, devoted, most loyal customers sit. That stool has three legs—resonance, alignment and transparency.

 

Resonance

First, your brand’s purpose needs to resonate with your customers—and it needs to be articulated so clearly that customers know it in an instant.

Consider TOMS and their “One for One” promise; buy a pair of TOMS shoes and they’ll donate another to someone in need. There are lots of socially responsible companies—even socially responsible shoe companies, but TOMS owns a big part of this space. If you buy into the idea that you can do good while you treat yourself to some hip footwear, you’re pretty much a customer for life.

When your purpose itself attracts customers, brand relevance comes baked in.

 

Alignment

Second, everything about your company—from your products and prices to your emails and tweets—needs to align with that brand promise in the service of the customer.

That includes customer experience—a fact which Toys R Us, after filing for bankruptcy protection, has sadly discovered.

The toy-buying experience has changed; more and more busy parents get their toys online from the Amazons of the world.

And the brand that was once a giant in the industry—who else remembers “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us Kid”?—is foundering. Yes, TRU has an ecommerce store, but when competitors stock more items and deliver faster, how can Geoffrey the Giraffe compete?

Toys R Us simply stopped being relevant to its customers, and is seeing the results at the bank.

 

Transparency

Third, when your brand makes a mistake—and you will, eventually—you need to own your “oops” and try to get things back on track as soon as possible.

For just one example, look at Taco Bell.

It goes without saying that no-one’s going into Taco Bell expecting a fine dining experience. But even still, the 2014 revelation that their meat contained only 88% beef sent shock waves.

The brand weathered the crisis, however, by being direct about the ratio of meat to seasoning and filler, gambling—correctly, it seems—that 100% pure beef tacos just weren’t relevant to their customers.

Take whether you want to eat their food, or whether you consider it food at all, out of the equation, and you can see that Taco Bell’s décor, their menu choices, their prices and their branding all align—and their directness about what they are and what they’re not complements it all.

That’s brand relevance to a “T.”

 

When brand relevance disappears

Has anyone else noticed that brands don’t ever seem to learn how to use resonance, alignment and transparency to stay relevant?

That’s bad for them, but good news for us—because we get to cackle over recent brand fails like these:

 

Takeaway

It’s easy to be smug about brands losing their relevance, so it’s best not to gloat. (Not for too long, anyway.) The better strategy is to consistently check whether your brand still resonates with your customers, whether all your touchpoints are aligned with your purpose, and whether you’ve got what it takes to own up to your mistakes.

3 Ways to Differentiate Your Business

Do you know how to differentiate your business? Here are three popular ways.

There are infinite ways to differentiate your business from the competition. That’s both a blessing and a curse—a blessing because you’ll never run out of choices, and a curse because it can be so hard to decide.

What’s the best one? Whichever one works.

All kidding aside, there are three main ways to use differentiation—the process of distinguishing your business from others in the market—to help you stand out in a crowded industry.

Which one you choose depends, frankly, on which feels best to you.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and countless businesses have both succeeded and failed using each strategy.

 

Method #1: Focus on what’s most credible about your business

By asking yourself “What am I best at?” you’ll zero in on the aspect of your business that buyers will have the easiest time believing is true.

For example, let’s say you’re particularly good at getting hamburgers off the grill and into customers’ mouths. You could focus on, say, the number of burgers you’d created in the life of your business. McDonald’s used to do exactly this with a line on their signs that said, “Billions and billions served.”

Similarly, shipping service FedEx once emphasized their record for on-time delivery: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

Of course, with this method, you run the risk of customers simply not caring about what you’re good at. But if you know your product-market fit is right, this could be a good choice.

 

Method #2: Differentiate your business by focusing on what’s unique

Drawing attention to what’s different is quite literally differentiation in action. After all, if you do something uniquely, it makes sense to crow about it.

Think of HBO in the 90s and early 2000s, when the cable channel dragged itself from the swamp of network programming with some of the best shows of all time—the Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire and so on.

Their slogan? “It’s not TV… It’s HBO.”

Domino’s provides another good example, with their “30 minutes or it’s free” guarantee that set them apart from everyone else in the pizza delivery game.

United Airlines took a similar approach, differentiating themselves in a crowded passenger travel market by implying they were simply nicer. Remember “Fly the Friendly Skies”?

But wait… If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice something interesting about all three of these examples.

United, of course, recently ended up in “Public Relations Hell” for a PR scandal that proved they were anything BUT friendly. HBO suddenly stopped being unique when upstarts like Netflix—and even the networks—upped their television game. And Domino’s went back to being one pizza chain among many when fast delivery became an industry standard.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with using your uniqueness to differentiate your business. Just be prepared to go back to the drawing board should that uniqueness disappear overnight.

 

Method #3: Find what appeals most to your customer—and differentiate based on that

Differentiating based on relevance involves finding what your customers appreciate most—and then hammering that point home.

Take Apple. Although this may come as a shock to those who’ve never had anything but an iPhone, Cupertino once made nothing but computers… Until the iPod, a portable MP3 player that revolutionized the music industry at a time when no-one even knew it was the device they’d been craving.

Fabled CEO Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod in October 2001 as a Mac-compatible machine that “put 1,000 songs in your pocket”—and suddenly music-lovers everywhere knew they couldn’t have anything else.

Here’s another example from an entirely different industry. Dating site eHarmony has been in the news lately because of a logo redesign, but their value proposition has been essentially the same from day one. Other dating sites exist, yes—many others—but eHarmony is where you go to find love. For a wide swath of the single public, tired of the dating scene and fed up with casual encounters and broken hearts, what other choice could there be?

This is a research-intensive approach—one for which you may simply not have the time or money. But there’s no denying the effect of a brand differentiated on relevance: customers come like moths to a flame.

 

Takeaway

It can be difficult to make a name for yourself in a crowded market, but it’s harder still if you’re not saying anything different from your competitors. If you’re stuck, choose one of these three methods—either the one you’re most comfortable with or the one that comes easiest—and run with it.

Plagiarism or Inspiration: Sticking to the Right Side of the Line

Is it plagiarism or inspiration? If you don’t know, here’s what you can do.

Question: is it actually plagiarism—or inspiration—when you copy and paste from a blog?

Keep reading for the answer.

But first, here’s why the difference is important.

The “plagiarism or inspiration” trap

If you’re like most brands, your blog post writing will follow a predictable pattern: launch with an enthusiastic rush of articles, then taper off and languish.

Why? Because coming up with fresh content ideas is hard!

Posting once a week? That’s 52 diamonds you need to dig up—and unless you’re some kind of wunderkind, you’re going to need to pull them out of a whole lot of coal.

And if there’s one thing about blogging, it’s that the schedule never sleeps. Post on Fridays? You’ll quickly come to dread the end of the week—and spend more than a few anxious Thursdays trying to grind things out at the last minute.

There has to be an easier way, right?

But… Doesn’t everybody do it?

You might be tempted to take shortcuts, “borrowing” everything from blog headline to entire paragraphs of text.

And who could blame you? After all, as the famous quote says, “Talent borrows. Genius steals.” Led Zeppelin famously filched everything they could. Mark Zuckerberg supposedly took a great idea and… Well, you probably know all about that one.

And what about Andy Warhol? Can a painting be plagiarism? (Ask Bob Dylan.)

So with the world’s biggest artists and thinkers apparently stealing left, right and center—what’s wrong with a little grabby-grabby yourself?

Well, everything, frankly—at least in our opinion.

But even if you don’t see anything ethically wrong with coming in on the wrong side of the “plagiarism or inspiration” debate, on the internet you’ve got a couple of things working against you.

Google knows all—which means other people will, too

Search engines like Google and Bing really don’t like duplicate content. And they’re quite smart about knowing where and when a piece of content was originally published, and they actively work to bury copycats.

In other words, don’t plagiarize or your search engine rankings will suffer.

And in case even that isn’t enough to dissuade you, think about this: smart marketers are out there constantly checking for people plagiarizing their work. Tools like Copyscape and Grammarly make it as easy as clicking a mouse, so you have to assume that if you’re up to no good, you’re eventually going to get caught. In today’s increasingly litigious society, that could mean big legal hassles.

So what’s an idea-broke brand to do?

A 5-step process for ethically “borrowing” blog post ideas

You don’t have to steal other people’s work, but you can draw inspiration from it. Here’s a process we like to use that will keep you on the right side of the “plagiarism or inspiration” line.

  1. After you’ve done your blog post research—for example, you’ve chosen a popular keyword, or used a tool like BuzzSumo to find out what gets shared in your industry—take someone else’s headline and reword it. For example, “7 Ways to Find Cheap Stock Photos for Your Blog” could become “Stock Photos: 7 Places to Buy Them for Your Blog For Less.”
  2. Next, expand or narrow the scope of your post—and make changes to the headline accordingly. “7 Ways” becomes, say, 5 or 9.
  3. Then write a summary of the post and outline your main points. It’s OK if your inspiration post and your outline share some material. But you should aim for at least 50% new content, so your version doesn’t discuss too many of the same things.
  4. Let your summary and outline sit for a day or two. You might even consider not looking at the original post again until after you’ve finished yours. This is important, because if you stick to this plan you’ll forget enough about the original that you won’t end up accidentally plagiarizing it.
  5. Finally, sit down and write your post based on the summary and outline you did. Bingo. “7 Ways to Find Cheap Stock Photos for Your Blog” becomes “Stock Photos: 5 Places to Buy Them For Less”—an ethical, original, SEO-ready blog post.

Takeaway

Dry spells happen, and it can be challenging to come up with new material all the time. But although they say genius steals, in reality, light fingers will only invite trouble. Is it plagiarism or inspiration? With a little extra work, you can write blog posts that feel familiar but are still original.