Welcome back to another Ask Me Anything, a weekly series where we talk to our friends, our viewers, and our community about all of their pressing needs, questions, wants, and desires.

Let’s take a look at the mailbag to see which questions are burning this week.

Here’s a good one:

What is the best way to protect my agency’s IP and my business?

Your Agency’s IP Can’t Be Lifted By Others

About a week ago, I received an email from an influencer that I follow with information about their weekly podcast, their guest, and a few quick things you would get from listening to it.

Their guest claimed that she created the PESO Model—and it said so in the snippet they used to promote the podcast.

As you can imagine, I was a little, uh, upset (oh, who am I kidding? I was LIVID! I was so angry, I was shaking. It was not good.).

Not only did she not create the PESO Model, but she also has our image on her website, where she has stripped out our watermark and copyright and added her own logo.

But here’s the conundrum: I created the PESO Model for the industry.

I absolutely want communicators to use it in their everyday lives and I want them to get credit for the hard work they put in when using it to demonstrate results.

But we ask for attribution and a link to our content when it’s used.

That’s it. Just credit where credit is due.

I’m not litigious and I don’t want to burn the place down…unless we give you the opportunity to attribute it to us and you ignore us.

Then all bets are off.

Different Protection Options

And here’s the thing about me: I ALWAYS give people the benefit of doubt.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that most people “borrow” it innocently. They just don’t know. And A LOT of people think if it’s on the internet, it’s free for anyone.

We saw this a lot in the early days of blogging. If you saw a photo on The Google that you liked, you used it in a blog post.

That’s a big no-no. That’s an artist’s IP or an agency’s IP or a professional’s IP. You can’t just take it and use it without attribution (or paying for it, in some cases).

Think about it this way: if someone took a picture of you and used it as their profile photo on social media, would you be upset?

OF COURSE you would! That’s your own likeness—your personal IP, so to speak.

There are lots of ways you can use images and videos and music for free if the creator has licensed it under Creative Commons.

We did that with the PESO Model, with the caveat that you credit us.

That is a really easy way to protect your agency’s IP and share it with the industry, too (if you are so inclined).

But your IP may also require working with an attorney to gain copyright registrations and trademarks.

Be Overly Cautious with Your Agency’s IP

We did that for the PESO Model.

While we do allow you to use it under Creative Commons, we understood the need to have it protected should someone ignore our request to credit us.

I’ve talked about our attorney before. We work with Sharon Toerek and her team at Legal and Creative.

They are great not only for sending the occasional cease and desist letter to people who either ignore our request to credit us or downright fight us but in making sure that we are following all of the registration rules.

For instance, we are getting ready to launch a new Spin Sucks website (hallelujah) and Sharon and her team are reviewing the copy to ensure our content matches what we’ve submitted (and gotten approved) to the federal registration offices.

They’ve also come back to us with recommendations on different marks to get, beyond “PESO Model” and the image, such as PESO Model Certification, PESO Model courses, and more.

There is certainly a lot to think about when protecting your agency’s IP—and Sharon and her team are the experts on it if you have specific questions.

But I will tell you this—if you’re using a process or a framework or a model or a defined way of doing things and you’ve created graphics or images or images to accompany it, get it all protected.

If you put any of your agency’s IP out into the world via a new business presentation, a blog post, an infographic, a book, a speaking engagement, or just at dinner with friends, protect it.

You never know when a new business prospect or a former colleague or client or some poor schmuck Googling “how do I do XX?” will take your idea and pretend it’s their own.

Have a Question For Us?

I hope you’ll watch this week’s video because there is some color commentary in it that I didn’t include here.

And…if you have a question for a future AMA you can drop them below or join us in the (free) Spin Sucks Community.

You can also find us on social media, email us, or stop by with a bottle of wine for porch drinking.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich