Social Plagiarism? Might Be, But SOOOO Stupid

Summary:Brent Leary is not only one of the more influential guys in the world of CRM but he is one of the nicest. He is a bright, insightful fun-loving and well-respected CRM guru who understands especially how the small business needs to use CRM and Social CRM.

Brent Leary is not only one of the more influential guys in the world of CRM but he is one of the nicest. He is a bright, insightful fun-loving and well-respected CRM guru who understands especially how the small business needs to use CRM and Social CRM.  He has a wide audience for his wares including his well-regarded Social CRM blog (came in number 2 this year on the InsideCRM Best Blogs of 2008 to ahem, me with this one and PGreenblog - awarded yesterday. How self-serving is THAT!).  He has a radio show/podcast called Technology for Business Sake AND he writes on the American Express Open Forum monthly with a look at what makes sense for CRM-interested companies.  He has an upcoming e-book on the lessons of the Obama campaign for small business customer engagement.  He is well liked everywhere with significant ties to both the CRM and social media worlds.

So, if one were going to plagiarize someone - wait. Let me make something abundantly clear here. Plagiarize something means to steal someone's intellectual property - writing etc. and reproduce it, not only without attribution, but under your own (the thief's) name. So, again. If one were to sink low enough to plagiarize someone, Brent doesn't seem like he would make a smart candidate for plagiarism, now does he

Not to me it doesn't.  He has a long reach into a large base and everyone likes him and he is someone who actively participates in the use of the social tools like Twitter to converse with a large audience.

Yet, not only is that exactly what happened but the thieves went as far as to steal Brent's material from his highest trafficked site  - the American Express (AMEX) Open Forum.  So not only were these thieves apparently unethical and immoral, and possibly, criminal or at least civilly liable, but they were really, really, really dumb.

The Story

The story behind this is pretty straightforward. About a week ago, A friend of Brent's forwarded an email he had received with what seemed to be a mass email from a PR firm named LaForce+Stevens (the cutesy plus sign is theirs) which claims a really sexy, upmarket clientele among them Belvedere Vodka, Nautica, Reebok and Piaget.  LaForce+Stevens sent out what seemed to be a mass "pitch" to an unclear client or set of clients or prospects to see how they felt about the pitch. They were pitching the pitch.

Until you read the pitch.

The pitch is Brent Leary's entry - almost exactly as it was published on November 26, 2008 in the American Express Open Forum. It seems that our intrepid PR "experts" (expert at using someone else's writing without attribution or payment, I guess) thought that by changing a few words they would somehow avoid comparisons or a possible lawsuit. Though, as far as I remember, not only is fair use limited to a couple of short paragraphs, but attribution is part of fair use too.  Pretty sure I'm right about that one.

This is the LaForce +Stevens from now on referred to as LaFarce minus Stevens pitch email in comparison to Brent's entry:

LaFarce minus Stevens "Pitch" Email

Brent Leary's AMEX Open Forum November 26, 2008 Posting

Winning Friends and Influencing People in a Web 2.0 World

There was a time when success could be measured by hard work and determination, when character could be read by the strength of one's handshake, and when Dale Carnegie's landmark book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," could be found on the bookshelf of every study across America. Times have certainly changed since 1937, the year Dale Carnegie penned the best-selling guidebook to assuming leadership and arousing enthusiasm among people. Success is now measured in wealth, and character is now measured not by the strength of one's conviction, regardless of the consequences to themselves, but rather the strength of one's conviction regardless of the consequences to others. Interestingly though, what has stood the test of time are the principles Dale Carnegie developed and laid out in 1937. In fact, not only have they stood the test of time, but with each modern advancement and technological breakthrough, they seem to become that much more influential. In fact, today's modern technology has only amplified Carnegie's philosophies, allowing them to impact more and more people than Carnegie himself could have ever imagined.Possibly the best example of an individual succeeding in winning friends and influencing people in a Web 2.0 world is none other than President-elect Barack Obama - a man who many feel just completed the most successful Internet marketing campaign ever.Here are a few ways Obama's campaign fused Dale Carnegie's original concepts with today's Web 2.0 tools and strategies to effectively win and influence millions of people:

Dale Carnegie Meets Barack Obama: Winning Friends And Influencing People In A Web 2.0 World

Before the Internet, when business was literally done with a firm handshake, small business types relied solely on local customers. The Internet has changed that forever. It allows us to communicate in ways unimaginable only a few years ago. It also makes it possible to discover an endless supply of information with just a few clicks. And these clicks, performed by strangers half-way across the world, may lead to new customers. But there is no possibility of converting clicks into customers if they can’t find us, which is still a challenge frustrating the majority of small businesses.Back in the day of the firm handshake, the principles espoused in Dale Carnegie’s landmark book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” were used by millions of business people with great amounts of success. Although the book was originally written in 1937, it’s as relevant today as it was back then. In fact technology amplifies Carnegie’s philosophies allowing them to impact more people than Carnegie himself could have ever imagined.And quite possibly the best example of winning friends and influencing people in a Web 2.0 world is President-elect Barack Obama – who many feel has just completed the most successful Internet marketing campaign ever. Here are a few ways Obama’s campaign infused Carnegie’s original concepts with Web 2.0 tools and strategies in order to win and influence millions of people.

"Throw down a challenge" ~ Dale Carnegie

All political campaigns are ripe with sweeping statements from both parties that are likely contested. Obama's campaign answered many of these contested statements with a site they put together - FightTheSmears.com. With this site they used audio, video, text and other kinds of content to address various statements to which they took exception. They also invited site visitors to report "smears" which they could then challenge.In reaction to those questioning his tax plan, The Obama Campaign launched a webpage with a tax calculator that visitors could use to calculate how his tax policy would impact their specific net income. It also included a YouTube video stating his tax policy, as well as widget people could put on their websites and blogs to which help spread his own policies virally. After the country was introduced to Joe the Plumber, the Obama campaign used Google Adwords to buy an ad for the term "Joe the Plumber" which when clicked on, led back to the tax calculator page.

Throw down a challenge

During the course of any political campaign a lot of statements are made that end up being contested. Obama's campaign answered many of these contested statements with a site they put together - FightTheSmears.com. With this site they used audio, video, text and other kinds of content to address various statements they took exception to. They also invited site visitors to report "smears" in order to challenge them.The Obama campaign also challenged those questioning his tax plan by putting up a page on their site that had a tax calculator people could use to see how his tax policy would impact their net income. It included a YouTube video that stated his policy on the subject. It also included a widget people could put on their websites and blogs, which helped spread his policies in a viral fashion.And when the country was introduced to Joe the Plumber after his conversation with Obama on the subject of taxes, the Obama campaign used Google Adwords to buy an ad for the term "Joe the Plumber". When you clicked on the ad you landed on the tax calculator page.

Dramatize your ideas

Through content created by his campaign, or through user generated content created on his behalf, Obama was able to express his ideas of hope and change in ways that captivated millions of people.His YouTube channel has over 1800 videos, accounting for over 20M views. His FlickR stream has thousands of photos. He posted his policies on document sharing sites like ScribD. The campaign also created an iPhone app that allowed people to organize their contacts by battleground states, provided campaign information, and helped find campaign events taking place in your area. The campaign even advertised on Xbox games like Burnout Paradise.

Dramatize your ideas

Through content created by his campaign, or through user generated content created on his behalf, Obama was able to express his ideas of hope and change in ways that captivated millions of people. His YouTube channel has over 1800 videos, accounting for over 20M views. His FlickR stream has thousands of photos. He posted his policies on document sharing sites like ScribD. The campaign also created an iPhone app that allowed people to organize their contacts by battleground states, provided campaign information, and helped find campaign events taking place in your area. The campaign even advertised on Xbox games like Burnout Paradise.

Dale Carnegie 2.0

President-elect Obama's campaign is a living testament to the longevity of the teachings and concepts of Dale Carnegie. But they are also a testament to the power social media can have on building meaningful relationships with people we may have never met - and might not ever meet. Now it's not likely that we as small business people will ever reach the scale and scope the Obama campaign operated on. But we don't need to reach millions of people and raise hundreds of millions of dollars to be successful. We just need to figure out how we can use blogs, podcasts, social networks and other tools to make it easier for people to find us when they searching for help.

Dale Carnegie 2.0

President-elect Obama’s campaign is a living testament to the longevity of the teachings and concepts of Dale Carnegie. But they are also a testament to the power social media can have on building meaningful relationships with people we may have never met – and might not ever meet. Now it’s not likely that we as small business people will ever reach the scale and scope the Obama campaign operated on. But we don’t need to reach millions of people and raise hundreds of millions of dollars to be successful. We just need to figure out how we can use blogs, podcasts, social networks and other tools to make it easier for people to find us when they searching for help.We can thank Dale Carnegie and Barack Obama for showing us how we can do it.
There are several things that astonish me about this:
  1. First, that a company with what seems to be an incredibly posh and brand-sexy client portfolio would stoop to what minimally seems to be unethical and immoral and even, possibly, legal plagiarism.
  2. That they didn't think they'd get caught at this - this is the age of the social customer which an emphasis, a strong emphasis on the word and living concept - social. That means that peers talk to peers and the world of social media and CRM, while growing isn't that huge - and is conversing via Twitter, email, IM of varying kinds, Facebook and other social networks, and unified communications tools ad infinitum on a virtually 24X7 basis. Someone was BOUND to see it who knows Brent and then tell him. Which is exactly what happened.  How stupid can a PR firm be - or afford to be?
  3. PR firms are supposed to have creatives on staff. Apparently LaFarce minus Stevens doesn't since they have to steal ideas from other people.
  4. That LaFarce minus Stevens is so....so.....crass that they would even think of doing this.
  5. That LaFarce minus Stevens is apparently thinking that because we live in an age of "open intellectual property" that they have the license to steal Brent's well thought out work without compensation or even attribution - under their own name!
  6. That LaFarce minus Stevens hasn't responded to anyone who has contacted them or to Brent with even an apology to Brent.

Is this plagiarism?  I'll have to leave that to a court to decide.  But what it is is unethical and immoral and worthy of contempt.  If I were a client of LaFarce minus Stevens - and in the interests of full disclosure, NO WAY AM I -I would be seriously concerned about their creative capabilities and now, apparently, their honesty.

What do you guys think about this?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Banking, Browser, Government, Government : US, SMBs, Social Enterprise

About

In addition to being the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light: Social CRM Strategies, Tools, and Techniques for Engaging Your Customers Paul Greenberg is President of The 56 Group, LLC, a customer strategy consulting firm, focused on cutting edge CRM strategic services and a founding partner of the CRM training company, BP... Full Bio

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