Copy and Create

Last week was our Intelligent Content Conference, and I’m flush with inspiration. I was amazed, although not surprised, by the number of insightful, pragmatic ideas from both the speakers and the attendees.

Over the weekend, a marketer who hadn’t attended the conference emailed me to ask if he could get access to all the “templates” and “frameworks” from the workshops. He said he was looking for a “fill in the blank” set of presentations that would help him establish a content strategy at his company. “Does such a thing exist?” he said.

I helped him the best I could, but the answer is No.

After our exchange, it got me to thinking, how many of us are copying and pasting our way through our careers?

Nothing breeds imitation more than success. You see imitation everywhere. Look at how many startups claim to be the Uber of something. Or look at the chatter about who is copying whom when it comes to social media: Facebook is copying Snapchat, and Twitter is copying Instagram, and LinkedIn is copying Facebook. Or watch Microsoft copy Apple by launching retail stores right across the mall from them. From Hollywood movies, to pop songs, to food products, to best practices in marketing, best practices become best practices because we’re copying what worked.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with copying. Copying the successful is a tried-and-true method. As marketers and content practitioners, we do it all the time. Like the manager who emailed me, we’re all looking for the templates, the frameworks, the proven methods, the case studies. We’re looking for things that we know will work.

Except, in most cases, when we copy the best practice, it turns out not to be the best.

The key is asking why you’re doing what you’re doing. Yes, copying someone else’s template or business case or framework might work for your business. Yes, copying your competitor’s blogging strategy might lead you to similar success. But chances are you’ll have to do more than copy and paste. If you’re going to copy, make the effort your own. Copy and create.

Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.