From the Studio Floor

On Creative Business + Courageous Communication by Michele Perry


Why Not Crediting Content Harms Your Brand (& 5 Things You Can Do About It)

Jul 10, 2019

“A mindset of abundance encourages community and collaboration to rise above competition and creates an environment that invites unity. It means that you can celebrate the accomplishments of others without feeling diminished by their success.” -Natalie Franke

If you are using content without attribution or credit, you’re hurting your brand.  Not someday maybe. But right now definitely.

canva pro/getty images>I see influencer accounts with millions of followers blatantly ripping off smaller accounts all over social. It happened to a friend and when I dug around on the influencer’s account, it looked like 80% of the content posted were uncredited screenshots from another social platform.

Y’all, I could barely believe it.  I mean my jaw was on the ground.

(My friend Tyler wrote an amazing post about how to correctly credit content here.)

It’s easy to think, wellllllllll…. these mega-accounts are doing it.  And they are “successful”.  Friend, in the most loving tone I can type, we are BETTER than that.  Your voice matters. You. Your story. The insight you have.  And whether we have 3 followers or 3 million, integrity is everything.

Yes. It is super easy to scroll and save quotes from Google or Pinterest and repurpose them.  But I’m going to be that friend that tells you when you have something between your front teeth. Because seriously, that’s what friends do.

Not crediting content you find online, even if has been shared 100K times, is chipping away at your brand platform. 

You might not see evidence of it right now.  But it is creating doubt in some people who might become customers and brand allies for life.  Not only that, but it also threatens your professional reputation online.

Your greatest brand asset is not your logo, or your visuals, or even your words (although I’m partial to all of those).  Your greatest brand asset is trust.  It can take YEARS to build trust and only seconds to shatter it.  

People pay attention.  Even if you think they don’t.  And most often they don’t say anything.  They just leave.

However, curating great content with celebratory credit-sharing generosity is a win-win-win-there’s-no-lose.  

Correct attribution makes you look educated, intelligent, well-researched, thorough, and trust-worthy.  By crediting sources, your followers know you do your homework. But the converse is also true.  

I get it that viral memes can be hard to trace.  And some short-form content is so generic that it is hard to definitively attribute. What gets me is the amount of well-known specific quotes like the ones below that get shared with the credit simply left off. 

  • “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” — Maya Angelou 
  • Success is never owned; it is only rented, and the rent is due every day! — Rory Vaden
  • “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”― Art Williams


It happens so much more often than we’d like to think.  My inner grad-student is shuddering.

Content creating friends, we have more to offer than that.  Many of us in the creative entrepreneur space talk about #communityovercompetition and lifting all boats.  Handling content responsibly is one place the cyber rubber really meets the social road.  

Over the years, I’ve had entire web pages and educational products ripped off virtually verbatim multiple times.  As a content creator, it is violating and defeating when that happens. And it is the exact opposite of what healthy, creative community looks like.

The good news? There are 5 relatively easy things we can do to become better creators and curators of quality content that builds brands that thrive from the inside out.

  • Say it with me, “GOOGLE & PINTEREST ARE NOT CONTENT SOURCES.”  They are search engines. Which means even viral memes have a point of origin somewhere. We can use these search tools to dig in and try and find a reliable attribution.  Unknown is not an attribution (see Tyler’s post I referenced above)
  • DO THE HOMEWORK: When I find a quote I love, I type it back into the search engine and see who consistently turns up as its author, or in some cases do a reverse image search.  Unless it is very clear who the content belongs to (like the Maya Angelou example above), I go several pages deep before choosing the best option. 
  • WHEN WE DON’T GIVE CREDIT, WE ARE 100% WRONG 100% OF THE TIME.  Sometimes things are really ambiguous in the content jungle.  If we truly do our best and make a mistake, we’re not perfect. We can own it, apologize and make it right… which actually builds brand trust and confidence.  People understand imperfection, but not repeated content plagiarism.
  • PLACE USERNAMES WITH CARE. Putting them under a quote that has no attribution implies we are the ones who said that quote. It implies originality. It’s fine to put our logo or branding on a quote image we create; we just need to make sure the quote is attributed correctly or is actually original to us.
  • WHEN I FIND SOMETHING TO SHARE and the credit is ambiguous, I consider three options:
    • Research/read articles or books on the same topic to find a similar quote to share that I can clearly attribute
    • Credit the content based on my best genuine effort and mention in the caption that I believe the content belongs to this source, but there was some conflicting information online so it has ALSO been attributed to these sources as well (list them).  Y’all this makes you look like a research-savvy rock star that honors people’s content to the best of your ability. Doesn’t get much better than that. Unless I can…
    • Create my own original content to share. This is ALWAYS a GREAT choice.  Putting my voice out there and providing references from my research keeps conversations going and growing.

In short:

If you can’t credit, don’t spread it.

You know me.  I just could not resist the rhyme. 😆 Sharing credited content is a wonderful way to support other entrepreneurs while building our own credibility as thought leaders and trustworthy brands all at the same time.  

You got this friend.  I’m over here cheering you on!

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