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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. These are the lines that actor Greg Kinnear uses in the movie Flash of Genius in his court case brought against Ford to receive credit for his invention of the intermittent wiper.

As the components of his invention existed prior to him using them, he said, so did all of the words existed in the English language before Charles Dickens put them together in that combination - and effect. The secret sauce, what the inventor contributed, was the combination.
That is what content is to today's content creators. The combination of words and phrases to a desired effect. One that exposes their skills and knowledge. One that engages and involves. One that is increasingly rare in this harried, results-oriented world of marketing and communications.
A compelling piece of content that informs and persuades is not something that everyone can cobble together who knows how to write. It takes time, experience, knowledge, and talent to create content like that. That's why sometimes it's tempting to just copy what someone else has written.
Content is the writer's bread and butter. It's their value-add, how they make their living and what they love doing. What would you do if an agency used your content for their marketing materials without crediting or paying you? Would you be upset? I bet you would.
Brent Leary was, and with good reason. I can hardly make his case. He already made it beautifully himself. But perhaps we can use his story to learn something.
Brent is an accomplished professional with many publications and contributions under his belt, as described by his colleague Paul Greenberg at ZDNet. One such contribution is a guest post spot at American Express OPEN Forum blog. A blog that I venture to guess has good traffic and exposure.
In mid-November, Brent published an interesting post where he discussed how to win friends and influence people in a Web 2.0 world by connecting Dale Carnegie and Barack Obama.
I saw the post while researching Obama's social media campaign for a post I wrote as Brent also co-published a Barack 2.0 site during the campaign. The Dale Carnegie/Barack Obama post also caught my eye because I saw it referenced in Brent's blog, twice.
Once as a letter coming from Marketing/PR firm, LaForce & Stevens, the other as the American Express OPEN Forum blog post I had read and enjoyed. You don't believe me? You can see the whole copy here, where Brent kindly provided a comparison as well as the history of his thoughts.
I especially like the collected and reasonable tone Brent adopted in making his case - surely you, too can see the evidence. In Flash of Genius, the movie I watched this weekend, all the inventor wanted was respect in the form of credit for his invention. He wanted to make an honest contribution, and yes earn a living doing it.
Giving attribution is not only one of the tenets of social media, it is an unspoken code for any professional worth their salt. It baffles me that to this day - and I corresponded with Brent very recently - LaForce & Stevens would not even acknowledge their actions.
Plagiarism may be a strong term, but it's quite accurate in this case, given the evidence. Everyone is under pressure to deliver. Why wouldn't we work together instead of separately?
My questions to you:
* At this late stage, would you consider coming forward and apologizing? Why/why not?
* What steps would you take in Brent's place? Do you have any advice for him?
* Do you have any other thoughts on this incident?

Continue reading "A Tale of Two C...ontents" ... Read the full article

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Valeria Maltoni helps businesses understand how customers and communities have changed marketing, public relations, and communications - and how to build value in this new environment. As a communicator she specializes in marketing communications, customer dialogue, and brand management. Valeria has come to define modern business as a long and open conversation. Conversation Agent is recognized among the world's top online marketing blogs. Valeria is a Fast Company expert blogger and a contributor to The Blog Herald. She is a co-author of , a groundbreaking ebook collaboration by 103 of today's top marketing writers. Valeria is a frequent public speaker on brand marketing, customer service, and building successful business teams. She publishes in both English and Italian. Educated at the University of Bologna and Villanova University, Valeria combines New World sensibilities with Italian style. She's an active member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the American Marketing Association (AMA), the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (WACA), and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).