No idea is original

There are times when you see something and you know deep down inside that what that person did was your idea. You know it with every inch of your being and you immediately become upset. But how upset should you really be?

This was the scenario that I encountered earlier this week and yes, I was annoyed. But I wasn’t 100% sure if I really should have been because maybe I was wrong… maybe it wasn’t fully my idea. Or was it?

So, let’s go back a few weeks and I’ll fill you in on the story. I applied for a job as a community manager and I made it to the 2nd round where they asked all of the applicants to respond back by the end of the week to one of three homework assignments that they had sent along. So, I diligently went to work reviewing my options and deciding which one I was going to work on. I spent almost 2 hours coming up with multiple ideas for a blog series, I researched the niche that they were in, reviewed other blogs that were similar, and finally had everything written out and detailed. I felt like I had nailed it and hit the send button.

With fingers crossed and hopes high I waited to hear back. I finally did and learned that I wasn’t selected… no big deal. I’ll just keep trying.

Fast forward a week or so. I’m scrolling through Instagram¬†and was stunned when I saw a picture that was exactly one of my ideas. I was floored… my idea that I used for my interview was implemented. I didn’t know what to do. So, like any other good blogger I took it to my friends and posed the question to them, how annoyed should I be?


We talked it through and finally I emailed the company. I was polite and very nice. I thanked them for considering me and I mentioned that I saw that they implemented one of my ideas and so on. The response that I received back said that they had over 100 applicants and said they’d keep my info for the future. Never once did they mention the use of my idea. Not at all.

I felt betrayed in a sense.

Did they actually hire someone? Or did they just use all of the applicants as a way to get free social media consultant work done? Do they now have a stock pile of incredible ideas to use?

My ideas weren’t perfect but they were pretty damn good.

Again, I went back to my friends and this time they agreed with me. They too felt that I had been wronged.

What I learned is that there are no original ideas…. maybe there is a twist to an old idea or something that we have already done. Maybe they had already planned and the timing of it’s implementation was coincidental.

As bloggers we have ideas all the time and we share them with one another from time to time. We run a blog series, a linky for a specific prompt, or something along those lines. We join in on the fun but we don’t steal the ideas from one another and run it as our own because we are a community…. a family if you will… we support one another as best we can. Also, we’re professionals and we want to be taken seriously and stealing ideas from one another won’t get us anywhere.

For many blogging is a business and we all know that it’s bad business to steal ideas. We know that it’s unprofessional and what happens in the end. Karma often has her way….

How can a blogger or a company be taken seriously by their followers, brands, PR reps, other bloggers, and community managers if they take ideas from others and implement them as their own? How can they build trust and a worthwhile brand on that? They can’t. And even if they try and it works for a while it’s just like a poorly constructed house and eventually it will come tumbling down around them.

The best lesson that I learned from all of it was this, use an NDA. When you share an idea send it in a dated, branded PDF document with the following NDA: “The information contained in this document is intended for internal use by {COMPANY/INDIVIDUAL} for decision making and is not intended to be shared, distributed or broadcast to any unintended or third-parties. Any strategic or creative property presented in this document may not be used without the express consent of {YOU OR YOUR COMPANY}.” Thank you Jessi. You’re awesome.

Cover your ass.

19 Responses to No idea is original
  1. Steph Calvert
    August 22, 2013 | 9:06 am

    That NDA at the end? SOLID. GOLD.

    Thanks for sharing this!!

  2. jill
    August 22, 2013 | 12:09 pm

    Great post. I’m appalled at the actions the business took and their reply to you. While it’s true that ideas are simply generated and recycled, this case is clearly not just coincidence. Thank you for posting, I hope that other companies/bloggers/friends take heed. Uncool.

  3. Brittany
    August 22, 2013 | 12:10 pm

    NDA Amen. Had those in my brain since banking days and they are so important. Such a hard way to learn this, and honestly even with the NDA a big company could be ballsy and assume you would never hire a lawyer. I keep my ideas top level and general. They can buy the idea or buy me to implement the idea. But no stealing!

  4. Becca - My Crazy Good Life
    August 22, 2013 | 12:52 pm

    SO frustrating! I recently bid on a contract and in the end, nobody was hired – they used all of our ideas and had someone in-house implement them. I feel your pain :-/

  5. gigi
    August 22, 2013 | 1:08 pm

    You know what’ scrazy about this..that other people are coming out in your comments and saying it’s happened to them. It just makes me sad. Let’s all protect ourselves!!!!

  6. Debra
    August 22, 2013 | 3:17 pm

    I feel your pain and I think you did get totally cheated. My day job is in PR and I work with NDAs with reporters/companies and I’ve even had to sign a few myself. I had never thought about it with my blog, but it makes total sense. It’s sad that we have to protect ourselves these ways but clearly we have to.

  7. Emmy
    August 22, 2013 | 3:38 pm

    Oh girl I am so sorry- I would have been so mad! I never would have thought to put a disclaimer on an idea like that, good to know. Seriously do wonder if they actually hired anyone.

    I have one linky party that I have had for over three years now and a blogger who I like and who came after me and I even helped promote has since started a linky party that isn’t the exact same as mine but it is too close for comfort for me. I still read her blog, but when it comes time for that post of hers I just click away and don’t comment as yea, obviously I am a bit annoyed by it.

  8. Natalie
    August 22, 2013 | 4:23 pm

    Preach it! I love when bloggers are willing to share their stories like this – it helps us all become better bloggers/business women. It’s sad that it seems to happen so often.

  9. Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell
    August 22, 2013 | 5:03 pm

    That is just all types of wrong and I hate that it happened. You learned a valuable lesson and I know there are a lot of companies that have done similar things to people. It stinks BIG time. Good idea to add the NDA next time though!

  10. angie
    August 22, 2013 | 8:01 pm

    Oh, this is perfect. And the last line, perfect. No one wants to see their idea implemented somewhere without being compensated. No one. :(

  11. Kimberly
    August 22, 2013 | 8:28 pm

    Love the CYA option — I’ve been wondering how to pitch a big idea to someone and yet not give them idea pro bono. Love your PDF with the verbiage — bookmarking this post for future reference.

  12. Miya Goodrich
    August 22, 2013 | 9:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing NDA! I’m sorry that happened to you. There are some dishonest folks out there! Totally shady.

  13. Alison
    August 22, 2013 | 9:54 pm

    Jackie, I’m so sorry that happened to you, and YES, cover your ass. I worked in a PR agency wherein we pitch solid ideas to potential clients all the time, and we always, always have an NDA, prohibiting the client from stealing the ideas.

    I recently pitched to a potential client that I was stupidly 99% sure I’d get, and added a few more details than I should have to my proposal, and did not put it in a PDA. They wrote back and said no thank you, that they’ve decided to hire someone internal instead. I’m not saying that they will take my ideas and run with them, but I’ve been feeling nervous the past 24 hours. So I’m going to borrow your NDA statement up there, and email them back right now.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Alison
      August 22, 2013 | 9:55 pm

      *PDA = PDF. Obviously. :)

  14. Jennifer
    August 22, 2013 | 11:26 pm

    I’m so, so sorry that this happened to you and I applaud you for taking the high road. Unfortunately, I hear about this happening to bloggers so often lately…I hate it. If you didn’t give them a well thought out idea with full information, you might not have gotten the job (if there really was a job to begin with, that is), but give them everything and they can just take it from you. The right job is out there for you…this just wasn’t it…good luck and keep at it!

  15. Jamie
    August 25, 2013 | 7:03 pm

    Thanks for writing this out. I’ve been wondering about this kind of thing. As we get more and more known in social media, all eyes are upon us, and that means once something is posted people not only know who we’re working with but where we’re going next, etc.

    Not always a good thing… and exactly the reason why we need NDA’s.

  16. Wendy
    August 26, 2013 | 2:16 am

    I’m so sorry, Jackie!

  17. Jennifer
    August 27, 2013 | 9:41 am

    This is great advice Jackie. I’ve always wondered about people taking an idea and using it as their own. With an NDA at least you would have a leg to stand on if you seek recourse.

  18. angela
    August 27, 2013 | 2:44 pm

    I’m so sorry that happened Jackie. Great advice about the NDA, but still, what a terrible way to learn that lesson :(

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