According to Dictionary.com, the definition of plagiarism is “an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.”

In other words, if you take someone’s report, blog post, or infographic and pass it off as your own without making any changes, that is plagiarizing.  Likewise, copying a few sentences or paragraphs from an article on the internet and pasting it into your own blog post or report is also plagiarizing. Plagiarizing is a big no-no, even at the middle school and high school levels.

Some business people have the misunderstanding that “repurposing content” means taking someone else’s content and rewriting it or reconfiguring it so it matches their brand but this is a gray area that needs careful consideration. The absolute best way to think of repurposing content is to think about only the content that YOU created and how you can use that content in a different way.

Not only is plagiarism wrong but Google may hide your plagiarized content in search results, so follow these three tips for avoiding plagiarism claims:

1. Cite sources properly. Using a quote from a former president, favorite author, or cult classic movie is perfectly fine IF you give the proper citation. Generally, that means putting quotation marks around the exact words and adding the person’s name or movie’s title. If you’re writing an academic piece, then a formal bibliography is necessary with more information but this simple citation is fine for general internet writing.

2. Borrow topics or themes, not exact words. Esteemed author Mark Twain believed, “There’s no such thing as a new idea,” and others argue this point today. Whether you agree with this or not, you can certainly write content about why business owners need a business coach (for example) but you need to put your own spin and perspective on the topic. You are completely unique from the other coaches out there and that needs to come through in your content. You have a different voice, different experiences, different clients, and all these things will give you a multitude of ways to write about a broad topic that thousands have already written about, just not in your voice. 

3. Focus on the content YOU have created already. Look at your blog posts, videos, webinars, etc. and plan your repurposing strategy with only these pieces in mind. Take bits and pieces from YOUR content and weave it together to create a new blog post, video, or webinar. In this instance, since YOU created this content, it’s alright to copy and paste YOUR words into a new format.

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