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Content Marketing Deconstructed: Legal Considerations at Every Stage of the Process

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When a person, brand, or organization creates its own platform to share and influence, a content marketing initiative is born. This practice has been going on long before digital capabilities made it as accessible and mainstream as it is today. It’s also these digital aspects that make it all that more complex for the modern marketer and the companies driving the ecosystem.

  • Who (or what robot) is creating your content?
  • Who is the rightful owner of the content and the intellectual property inside it?
  • Where and how is this content being distributed?
  • Are the laws relevant to the content being followed (or do we even know what those are)?

As a content creator myself, through a variety of media including blogging, video, podcasts, newsletters, and more, I understand the level of detail that can go into each and every project. It’s a big investment of time, talent and treasure, and that’s why it’s worth protecting at every corner.

I’ve seen legal hiccups at virtually every link along this chain, with rising complexities around content ownership and licensing, and emerging risks with more automated content solutions and accountability.

If you break down the process, you’ll find there are various and unique legal issues at each phase that can get in the way of progress. What’s my strategy to beat them? Plan ahead.

Here are three key junctures with reminders to help keep your content marketing campaigns secure:

1. Strategy, Talent & Content Sources

Before the first word is written, or pixel is placed, think about your end goals. In addition to the brand building and sales nurturing aspects, content marketing offers the opportunity of creating intellectual property for your brand, including in both the outputs and processes.

  • Is this something you will own and use in the future, or repurpose for other business opportunities?
  • Are you creating content in-house, using outside partners, freelancers or partners, or possibly integrating external, more automated and AI-driven content services?

You will want to ensure you own the rights to your work, so you have complete freedom in the future for promotions, repurposing and other applications.

For your content strategy and execution, ensure the same levels of agreements are in place for any partners or employees creating content on behalf of your company.

2. Content Development

Beyond the clear copyright rules and plagiarism risks surrounding content creation, there are several less obvious aspects that companies need to watch out for:

  • When featuring any other existing content, first get written permission from whomever owns the content (you would be surprised how often this step is skipped), and then cite proper attribution of any content sourced from, or linked to, from third party resources.
  • Gather and track licenses and use rights for images or artwork incorporated into your content and know the limits of those licenses.
  • When making claims within content, in addition to being true, claims need substantiation. Misleading by omission is just as off-limits as making an express false claim. Ask yourself about the substantiation before you publish the claim.
  • Include all needed trademarks with permission, or with adequate disclaimers if they are the trademarks of some third party.

There are many resources out there for education and reference, including this Skyword article, Original and Accountable: How to Detect Plagiarism, and Avoid It in Content Marketing. What’s key is making sure everyone involved keeps a vigilant eye on this, because your company becomes liable for any infraction.

3. Publishing, Distribution & Promotion

There are various considerations and rules surrounding content of all types that your company is publishing and promoting.

  • Copyright infringement or the use of content without permission or improper attribution.
  • Compliance failures in disclosures of endorsements, testimonials and all things influence marketing.
  • Native advertising or failing to distinguish clearly between paid content placed in a native ad context and the surrounding editorial content. Confused about what that is? Check out Robert Rose’s overview on Content Marketing Institute: What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing, Branded Content, and Native Advertising?

Additionally, email and data privacy rules continue to reign, brought to the spotlight more recently in GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (remember the CAN-SPAM act of 2003?). No one should be using purchased or rented lists for email or relying on the “opt out” at inception as law favors the initial “opt in,” and making sure that “opt outs” are managed properly.

To summarize, wherever your content is going… make sure the destination is legit!

Send the Right Message

With the massive flood of content pouring through digital channels for more than a decade, and more and quicker ways to produce and distribute it, companies continue to seek ways to get their messages through in an overly crowded environment.

Take the time to educate yourself, your employees, and everyone else in your content universe on the legal risks at each step of the content journey, and stay on top of evolving rules and regulations.

Article by Sharon Toerek of Legal + Creative by Toerek Law.

Sharon is an intellectual property and marketing law attorney, with a national Firm based in Cleveland, Ohio.  She devotes her legal practice at Toerek Law to helping creative professionals protect, enforce and monetize their creative assets.

She has a particular concentration of clients in the advertising, marketing and creative services industries, and counsels them on legal issues including copyright and content protection, licensing of creative content, trademark and brand protection matters, marketing agency service contract issues, freelancer contract issues,  social media issues, advertising compliance, and direct marketing regulations. To learn more about Sharon, visit www.legalandcreative.com.

Zodiac Marketer: Leo

Our next zodiac sign is Leo: birthdays between July 23 – August 22.

Leo is a fire sign with the strengths: generous, cheerful and humorous. They are also creative and passionate, but we’ve had quite a few zodiac signs with these traits, so we decided to go with some we haven’t done before. Leo’s weaknesses are arrogance and self-centeredness. We’ll explore some of the obvious, and not so obvious reasons, that you should embrace the positive and avoid those negative behaviors.

 

Generosity in Marketing

Generosity is definitely something to have in abundance for your business and marketing campaigns. In fact, some forms of generosity are great marketing tactics!

There are many ways to be generous from a business perspective. As a business owner, sometimes you have to be generous to your customers or clients. Generosity could be a free coffee giveaway or a plate of cookies waiting at the door. You could support a charity once a month by donating 10% of sales.

Have you considered offering a membership with perks or recurring visitor discount? This can mean giving them discounts, offering coupons or other promotions. After all, these are the people who support your business, so why not reward them with incentives.

Think about the generosity you receive from the businesses you frequent. What can you do that is similar to say “thank you” to your clientele?

 

Cheerfulness in Marketing

Being cheerful and positive is always putting your best foot forward. Do this naturally and try not to fake it. People want to be around cheerful people. They are uplifting, have a positive outlook on life, and thus a positive outlook on many things.

In one of our previous Zodiac Marketer articles, we talked about avoiding moodiness by leaving all your bad day blues at the door, particularly when meeting with clients. What better way to approach a potential client than with a genuine smile and greeting.

This applies to customer service as well. Would you rather buy something from a grumpy, negative person? Making people feel comfortable and cared for is a large part of the customer service recipe. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and think about how would you want to be treated.

 

Humor in Marketing

Who doesn’t enjoy someone with a good sense of humor? As long as the theme is appropriate and not offensive, go ahead and toss out those quippy one-liners to get the board room roaring with laughter (or at least a good chuckle).

Don’t force it! Again, it’s important to be natural here. There is nothing more painful than a terrible or inappropriate joke that falls flat. If it’s a meeting with a prospect, you will not be getting a call back and you certainly won’t win the business.

In your marketing campaigns, humor is a welcome and wonderful thing, but be careful not to overdo it or make anyone uncomfortable. Your marketing and advertising team should be pros at this and have no problem discerning the good humorous copy and design from the bad.

 

Avoid: Arrogance in Marketing

There is the obvious arrogant behavior that no one likes to be around. Also, be aware of some more subtle behavior that could be misconstrued as arrogance (particularly in marketing campaigns).

Let’s assume that we are all striving to be the best at what we do and make. You truly believe your product or service is better than anyone else’s and you want to shout it out to the world. Be wary of stating it in a way that can come off as arrogant, such as bashing your competition, dismissing negative feedback from customers (we wrote an entire article on negative feedback!), flipping the bird to naysayers, and all manner of similar bad behavior that is rude and offensive.

This goes for your employees too! They are brand ambassadors and should conduct themselves as responsible stewards of the brand at all times.

 

Avoid: Being Self-Centered in Marketing

Being self-centered as an individual is already bad enough. Being self-centered as a business can be downright fatal to your brand. Think about it this way. We live in a diverse world with people from a mosaic of backgrounds, preferences, and needs. It is possible that your target audience is quite specific, therefore you are trying to appeal to a certain demographic of people. Don’t let this be the catalyst for a narrow vision in your marketing campaigns.

In other words, think outside of yourself and your target audience, by always putting yourself in the shoes of other potential audiences who may not be your particular target. Are you alienating or offending them? Are your campaigns inclusive enough to perhaps draw in a new client base? If you can step outside your own bubble and take a bird’s eye view of your marketing campaign, you may find that a self-centered approach that was born inside a vacuum is actually harming your efforts.

Being more inclusive and thoughtful can create a richer business environment with more prospects for you, and at the very least, you will be in harmony with the diverse community in which we live.

Have you ever experienced any of the above traits in your marketing campaigns or business? We’d love to hear your stories!

Zodiac Marketer: Cancer

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Our next zodiac sign is Cancer: birthdays between June 21 – July 22.

Cancer is a water sign with the following strengths: loyalty, tenacity, and persuasiveness. Perfect traits for a strong marketer to possess. Cancer’s weaknesses can put a wrench in any marketing or business project. Being moody, pessimistic, and insecure are surefire ways to halt progress. In the following paragraphs we discuss how Cancer’s strengths and weaknesses apply to marketing.

Loyalty in Marketing

When we think of loyalty, we often think of clients’ loyalty to our brand. But, think about it; if you want someone to be loyal to you, shouldn’t you also be loyal to them? Loyalty to your clients can appear in many different ways. One of the most crucial is to always ask yourself if the product or service you provide is the best for your clients’ businesses. For example, we always look at our work with our clients not as isolated projects, but from the larger perspective. Is this one marketing project going to have the greatest impact on your goals, or is there another approach that will use your budget more effectively? We treat our clients’ businesses as if they were our own, which helps us make recommendations and decisions that are best for their business, not just ours.

Tenacity in Marketing

Tenacity is a useful trait to possess in creative endeavors, particularly marketing. Tenacity can mean that you back your design assertively, standing up and defending your work and its effectiveness. Tenacity can mean working long hours to meet a creative deadline or a website launch. Tenacity is constant learning in your field so that you can give your clients the best product or service possible. Tenacity is experimenting with new techniques to stay on the cutting edge of your field.

Persuasiveness in Marketing

This is a no brainer! Persuasiveness is the core of advertising and marketing. Put simply, when you market a product or service, you are persuading your audience that you are the best fit for their needs. Everything else follows from that.

Avoid Moodiness in Marketing

Moodiness should be left at home, no matter what. Let’s say we have a proposal presentation to the top three executives of a large prospect. One of us didn’t get much sleep and the other didn’t have her morning coffee. Yet another member of our team had a disagreement with her husband the night before. There are a lot of life issues that could put you in a bad mood, and they probably happen to most people on a daily basis. The point here is to leave all of that at the door, whatever it takes. Think of a funny story that lightens your mood, tell a joke, or repeat your personal mantra. If you don’t already have a bad mood eraser, consider adopting one. Don’t let a bad mood lose you prospects and even clients! No one wants to work with a person whose moods are unpredictable, right? I sure don’t. It halts productivity and can be passed on to other people. Pass on positivity instead.

Avoid Insecurity in Marketing

One thing we can’t be is insecure when we’re presenting a logo design or a website design to a client. In order for them to feel good about approving a design, they need to sense our confidence. And if we’re not confident about our design, we shouldn’t be presenting it. Having confidence starts with having a good product. If you feel even a little bit of doubt in your product or customer experience, consider an audit of your products and services to make sure you are offering the best possible experience. Offering the best possible product can eliminate your insecurity and will launch your marketing campaign to a whole new level. When you have confidence in your product, marketing becomes easy.

Have you ever experienced any of the above positive and/or negative traits in your marketing campaigns? We’d love to hear your story!

Zodiac Marketer: Taurus

Our next zodiac sign is Taurus: birthdays between April 20 – May 20.

Taurus is an earth sign with the following strengths: reliable, patient, practical, devoted, responsible and stable.  Many of these are strengths that businesses are looking for in a marketing agency, or any partnership for that matter. We’ll also take a look at Taurus’ weaknesses: stubborn, possessive and uncompromising. Some of these are no-no’s in marketing, yet some may be useful in small quantities.

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Reliability in Marketing

Let’s face it, being reliable is a must in ANY business. What does reliability in marketing look like? Meeting deadlines and staying within budget. If you foresee an over-budget project or missing a deadline, reliability is communicating that in a timely manner. Being available when a client needs you gives them the ability to rely on you. We sometimes say that there’s no such thing as a “marketing emergency,” but when a client’s website goes down, reliability is being there to help them get it back up and running, as quickly as possible, with no qualms. This also goes for a new launch. If a client has an aggressive deadline, reliability will reach that deadline—every time.

Patience in Marketing

From personal relationships to business, patience can be useful in many aspects of life.. It’s especially useful in the marketing world, where campaigns are often more about visibility and recognition and can take weeks or even months to yield results. In the case of a website SEO campaign or a digital advertising campaign, patience is needed to analyze. The more data you have to analyze, the better you will be able to project, extrapolate and adjust your ads accordingly. Consider websites themselves and the large amount of time you need to invest in them, especially if your content is extensive. Patience will pay off with large websites, because you want to make sure to spend the time needed to stay organized. If you fail to do this, the project can become a disaster!

Responsibility in Marketing

First and foremost, marketers have a responsibility to our clients. We have a responsibility to ensure that we remain true to their brand when executing campaigns. We have a responsibility to deliver our projects on time and within budget. But we also have a great responsibility, as any business does, to the planet and to do what we can to work in a way that is respectful to our resources. We do simple things, like work from home when we can, or cancel all those magazine subscriptions that often go unread. We don’t print emails when we don’t need to and we use digital notebooks as often as possible (sometimes you just have to write on paper, but we do so consciously!). We turn off our monitors, computers and lights when we leave the office.

Avoid: Being Uncompromising in Marketing

Now, there are times when you need to stand your ground and defend a great idea. And then there are times when you just have to let go! All of us marketers think that we know what’s best for the client (and frankly, we often do), but if they just can’t live with something that you think is great, you have to let go. If you don’t, the client may end up unhappy, unable to get that one little detail off their mind or the timeline may be extended and you’ll miss your deadline. Either way, use your business brain over your creative brain and be professional when you surrender.

As marketers, we work with a variety of businesses, so we encounter many business situations – soft skills like those described above are necessary. We are constantly developing these skills so that we can better serve our clients in this creative, strategic space. Get in touch with us if you need our expertise in design or branding!

Build Top of Mind Awareness With an E-Newsletter

enews_newsSome things never change, even in the fluid online world. One thing that we have always thought important, and will always believe in, is the e-newsletter. A few years ago we wrote the below article – “Build Top of Mind Awareness With an E-Newsletter,” and we still think the information in this article is useful – probably more than ever.

In a market driven by meaningful content, producing an e-newsletter with solid articles that help your customers and prospects is one of the best ways to build the relationships that will foster trust in your brand. There is no question – content is king, and if you position yourself as an expert by creating good content, you will win the trust of clients and prospects.

There are some kinds of businesses that are a part of their customers’ weekly, if not daily routine—grocery stores, drycleaners, and gas stations to name a few. Other companies, such as clothing and hardware stores or even restaurants, also typically attract mostly repeat business. As long as these operations offer competitive prices, good service, and are conveniently located (with no new arrival in the market appearing significantly better on any of those points), customer loyalty should remain fairly strong. But how can businesses instill loyalty when clients may need their services on an annual basis at best, or perhaps only a few times during an entire lifetime? This is the common situation for many professional service providers such as attorneys, CPAs, medical specialists, IT solution providers, or architects to name a few. An e-newsletter may be an economical and effective way to maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospective clients during those long stretches between having a need for the provider’s services.

Simple name recognition is good way to initially differentiate your business from others in your market. But more importantly, an e-newsletter emphasizes the expertise that’s available from professionals at your company.

The greatest challenge associated with producing any e-newsletter – one distributed via email – is getting an audience to read it. And even when a recipient originally made a conscious decision to request the newsletter, it’s not unusual for that person to soon find himself deleting the communication unread, marking it as spam, or taking the final step of asking to removed from the subscription list.

Here are few dos and don’ts that will help maintain reader interest in an e-newsletter from a professional service organization.

Do offer news the reader can use. For instance, attorneys might offer tips as to what to do when starting a business and accountants could point out frequently overlooked tax deductions. Make the articles memorable, pithy and to the point.

Don’t make the publication just another advertisement. In fact, it will enhance the credibility of your e-newsletter if you don’t overtly “sell” anything at all. While articles can address issues that readers may be facing as well as the available solutions, avoid talking about your own company’s specific offerings. Consumers are savvy. If they read about a problem in your newsletter, they’ll assume you have a product or service to meet their needs.

Do make it plain that you’re local. People are more open to information that comes from a “neighbor.” Work references to area landmarks or events into the various articles. As silly as it may seem, people enjoying saying to themselves, “I know where that is.” Referring to local places and events will make your business seem less abstract to potential customers.

Don’t pontificate. A “message” from the company president or CEO is generally bad enough as a reader turn-off, but it may be forgivable if that message offers the “news you can use” component mentioned earlier. Observations about the state of the union, environmental policy, what’s wrong with kids today, or any other topic outside of the author’s professional expertise however, is a definite no-no.

Do keep it brief. While you may have articles that link to your Web site for more additional (non sales) information, the amount of content visible at first glance, should not take up much more room than one screen length. The format should also make it easy for the reader to scan for topics of interest, and quickly glean the facts.

Don’t overload your readers. Make sure the people to whom you send your newsletter have a reasonable chance of being interested in the information you’re providing. And your total number of broadcast communications (the e-newsletter plus any other announcements, alerts, sales promotions, etc.) should appear in their inboxes no more frequently than twice a month. Once a month or once every three months is probably often enough for your newsletter to make an impact without becoming an unread annoyance.

Do encourage reader interactivity. Solicit and make it easy for your audience to provide feedback about your newsletter. Not only is this good PR but their ideas could very well have great merit and can enhance your publication. Also make it easy for audience members to introduce people they know to your newsletter. And finally, make it easy for readers to unsubscribe if they wish to do so.

Do create a series of articles for your newsletter either with a fun or business theme. For example, this year we are running a series of articles with tips for best practices in SEO, and last year we ran a series with the overarching theme relating Wonder Woman (our President’s favorite comic character) to marketing. We’ve seen great enthusiasm for the fun themes so we decided to keep it going with a Zodiac Marketing series this year. We expect that people will enjoy this series as well! As far as the SEO tips series they contain actionable items that any business person or marketing executive can apply to their routine.

Properly executed and written with your audience’s interests in mind, an e-newsletter can help keep your business in the minds of potential customers for that specific moment when they may need your services. Pinstripe can help create a template as well as content for your e-newsletter – get in touch if you need help with launching yours.