Dos and Don’ts for Avoiding Plagiarism

The bottom line is to embrace your authenticity and apply it to everything you do. If you see something that you're inspired by, slow down and ask yourself, what does that mean to you? Why are you drawn to it? How would you apply it? How would you recommend using it and then move forward with how you talk about the content of that topic with that additional information and insight?

Dos and Don’ts for Avoiding Plagiarism

I am very immersed in the world of coaching and business development books. One of the things that I would notice is that when I get an idea for something, I would think, “Oh, I have to do content about this, I have to put out a lead magnet about this, I have to do a whole theme around this. Then I would see someone else in the coaching world do something similar, and if the person I saw with this similar idea were one of my coaches or someone I followed, I would freak out a little and think, “Am I copying this? Is this not an original idea? Am I stealing their content?”

What I came to understand is that there are similar themes for what people share when they do similar things for a living. There are only so many ideas to share about certain businesses. For example, if you own a carpet cleaning business, there are only so many things you can talk about. It is perfectly normal that carpet cleaning businesses are going to talk about similar things. 

We can say the same thing about coaching and consulting. We might have a broader amount of things we can talk about than a carpet cleaning business and on a wider scale than a carpet cleaning business. But ultimately, there’s a theme that happens between businesses that are running in the same niche. 

I don’t tend to be overly “woo-woo”, but I’ve come to realize that ideas and concepts are floating out in the universe that combine us all, and they land on people. And some people act on them, and some people don’t. 

I am one of those people who act on a lot of the ideas that I have. I also follow and get involved with other action-takers who act on their ideas instead of the people who let these ideas float right past them. It would not be unheard of that someone in my circle would also act on my idea because of the themes connecting us all and the universal energy that runs through us all. I always want to ensure that when I act on my ideas, they come off as my own version of them. Because I am very careful about sharing my interpretation instead of sharing something verbatim, I have several important dos and don’ts for other business owners. 

DO Use Your Interpretation of Information to Make It Your Own

It is perfectly acceptable to use your interpretation of information to make it your own as long as you credit the sources you are using. Even bestselling author Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, quotes and highlights other people’s work in his books. He takes the body of work he’s referring to, interprets it differently, and applies it to what he’s talking about. 

There is so much “how to” information out there in the interwebs and in the world. There’s nothing that you can’t google for free to find out “how to ” do virtually anything. But the interpretation of that information and how to apply it to your client’s needs and goals is the huge differentiator that sets you apart as a thought leader.

Think of a lawyer. They use the knowledge they learned in law school to help their clients. 

They all attend law school, learn the same things, and pass the same bar exam. But their ability to use that information on behalf of their clients is what sets them apart from each other. That interpretation of information is what makes them a great fit for one client and not the right fit for another. 

DO Use Your Interpretation of Information to Differentiate You From Others

I’ve often said that one of my biggest differentiators is that I can do more than parrot my coaching services back to a list of what to do as a business owner. We all know what to do to grow our business. There is an abundance of free information about what to do. But my differentiator is my ability to break it down and show somebody how to do it based on their weaknesses, strengths, and goals. 

What is your differentiator in your ability to apply the information that is already out there in a unique way? Use that as your differentiator to share your interpretation of information instead of presenting it as your own. 

DON’T Repeat Someone Else’s Content Word for Word As Your Own 

Do not take what someone else is saying and act as if you are the ones who are saying it word for word. It is blatant plagiarism. I had somebody do that to me in my last corporate job. I started as the director of marketing and had put together the posters and signs for a booth that we had for a trade show. We were based in the Chicagoland area, but we did work nationwide. Some of our clients were in California at an event, and they saw a booth with everything I had written for our booth, word for word. You can believe that I received all sorts of phone calls from surprised attendees. 

When I was in my last business, I also had somebody use my 30-second networking introduction to introduce himself, not realizing that people had heard me say this for months at networking events. So aside from plagiarism, copying people and acting as if it’s your own kills your reputation, 

DO Give Credit if You Want to Use a Concept or Someone Else’s Words 

Give credit if you want to use somebody else’s concept or specific words. I did this last week with a quote from Usain Bolt. I put the quote and his picture and then added my interpretation of the quote. If you are not 100% sure who said a well-known quote and cannot find the source by Googling it, you can mention that it is a famous saying and not your own. Alternatively, you can attribute it to “source unknown” to indicate it is not your quote, but you do not know who said or wrote it. 

DON’T Worry About Being the Top Expert

Not only should you not worry about being the top expert in your niche, but don’t even try to be 

the leading expert. Let yourself off the hook and make it easier for yourself. There is always someone smarter and further along in their knowledge of a topic than you are. There is always someone who understands things at a different level, and that is fine. 

Instead of worrying about being the top expert, learn from them. Most people, your audience, prospects, and clients, do not need you to be the top genius. They don’t require you to be the top earner in your field for them to learn from you and for you to help them. 

In the world of business coaching, I would argue that most people are not in a position where they could even implement what they would learn from the TOP people because they don’t have the years of brand building, a huge team, and deep pockets to do many of the things that happen in the later stages of a business. Most business owners are not in a position where they can even implement what they would learn from the top people like Gary V. or Tony Robbins. 

This applies no matter what niche you are in. The clients who will come to you will do so because you are further down the path to being an expert than you are. You know much more about a topic than they do, even if you are not “the” top expert in that area. This applies whether you are a content writer, a graphic artist, a travel agent, a dog trainer, or whatever industry you serve. 

DO Embrace Your Authenticity and Apply it to Everything You Do

The bottom line is to embrace your authenticity and apply it to everything you do. If you see something that you’re inspired by, slow down and ask yourself, what does that mean to you? Why are you drawn to it? How would you apply it? How would you recommend using it and then move forward with how you talk about the content of that topic with that additional information and insight? 

What the world needs most, what your business needs most, what you need most, and what your audience needs most is you authentically. Your clients do not need a copy of someone else who is already out there.

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Erin Marcus

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Erin Marcus is an author, speaker and communications specialist helping organizations to “Conquer the Conversation,” and creating improvement in sales, customer service and team dynamics. To bring Erin to your event or business:

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