How Lazy Content Curation Is Ruining Your Influencer Relationships

In the start-up marketing world, I’ve often heard the adage “ask forgiveness, not permission.”

Unfortunately, it seems many content producers are living by this advice, and unwittingly sabotaging the very influencer relationships they hope to build through their content curation process.

You see, influencers are tired of having their name and hard work appropriated by brands they don’t know.

They’re not flattered by your unauthorized republishing of their content, or by how you’re amplifying their ideas by presenting them as your own.

Because I try to assume positive intent on behalf of the curator, it looks like many content creators simply are not aware of the fine line that exists between content curation and plagiarizing, or even stealing someone else’s content.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a few examples of what not to do for your content curation, unless your goal is to piss off your favorite influencers and ensure they’re unlikely to want to work with you.

Five Ways Not to Curate Influencer Content

Paraphrase their entire piece of content.

Recently, an article I wrote was tagged to another social media user by someone who was pointing out the helpful chart I’d included that walked readers through an illustration of a content marketing process I frequently use in the course of my work.

Curious as to the context of the conversation they’d had that had led to this share, I clicked through to a post on the sharer’s blog.

As I read through the post, which was a rephrased/reworded version of the meat of my blog post (down to the same number of process steps, in the same order, with the same names), I kept waiting for a link to the original post and an acknowledgment that the concepts and content were not the author’s own.

But there wasn’t one.

Instead, buried in the piece was a note about part of a concept having been borrowed from a specific website (where my post was published), but there wasn’t a link.


To say that this left a bad impression on me is an understatement.

The sad part is, this has happened several times, with different ‘authors’ thinking this was an acceptable way to generate content for their blogs.

Ask them for their personal opinion on a topic, then include it, out of context, in your content

If you’re curious about my personal opinion on a topic, my answer is going to be different than if you ask me, for publication, what my opinion as a marketer is on a topic.

Also, I might not want, for whatever reason, to be part of published content on a particular topic.

Maybe I have a business deal in the works that would make it awkward to answer, or perhaps I’m not allowed by my employer to comment on a specific topic publicly.

The point here is you should ask people their permission to include them in your content marketing.

If you’re quoting someone well-known, from content they’ve authored, or a media interview, doing so is just a courtesy.

Please don’t take someone’s reply to you on social media and call it an endorsement of your organization or include it without context in your content!

Simply ASK them if they are willing to participate and spell out the context in which their contribution will be used.

If you are creating something that’s very self-serving, they likely won’t be interested in being included in a thinly veiled sales pitch, and they definitely aren’t going to share it with their audience.

Publish a profile of them on your website…that they aren’t aware of


Not everything you read on the internet is true!

And even if it were true at the time, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate now.

A friend of mine woke up one morning to find he was that day’s feature profile, on a site he hadn’t been involved with.

Embarrassingly enough, much of the content (which had been cobbled together through Google searches and old snippets of content from various sites) was not at all aligned with his current personal branding and career goals.

If you are publishing a profile of an influencer, in the hopes of them sharing it with their audience and gaining the positive effects of that association, it’s imperative you explicitly obtain their permission to do so, and allow them to fact check and provide edits.

Otherwise, this sort of project can backfire.

In addition to NOT sharing it with their network, they may also go out of their way to avoid any further association with you and your brand.

Use their social media content, verbatim and in front of them, without credit

Have you ever been in a Twitter Chat only to see you’ve developed an echo?

For instance, there’s someone who, after you share your answer to a question, copies it verbatim and pastes it (occasionally spelling out something you abbreviated or vice versa).

Here’s the deal.

On Twitter you can retweet something you find compelling and even add your own commentary to it.

People appreciate this.

You’re amplifying their point-of-view and giving them credit for it.

But when you just re-appropriate their words as your own?

Well, that’s how you end up on ignore lists.

Present their ideas and content as your own

Imagine being at an industry conference and seeing your proprietary model or process up on the screen, being shared as the speaker’s own concept.

And then tweeted and blogged by all those in attendance as their original work.

Or seeing the visual content you created being used commercially, without permission, payment, or attribution.

Unfortunately, this sort of unfair use happens all the time, but that doesn’t make it an acceptable practice.

Don’t borrow content that doesn’t belong to you.

Fairly license it (or ask permission), and provide a legible source attribution.

If you don’t, you risk being called out by a sharp-eyed viewer as someone who steals other people’s content.

That’s a stain you don’t want to have on your reputation.

All of the above have either happened to me this year, or to one of my friends, and it really should not have.

As content creators, you can do better than this.

Perhaps you just need a few tips.

A Quick Overview for an Ethical Content Curation Process

  1. Give credit where credit is due
  2. Reach out to influencers and ask for their participation
  3. Link back to the original source

Yes, it’s really as easy as 1-2-3.

Let me go into more detail here, and give you examples of brands that are consistently doing it right.

If you are sharing someone else’s viewpoint, make the most of it by showcasing them as an expert.

This will not only increase the authoritativeness of the content by associating it with its originator, it can be the start of a beautiful influencer relationship.

My friend and fellow content marketer Dennis Shiao (disclosure: A former client of mine) pointed out that the folks at did a great job of this in a recent post on their blog titled, “The Next Five Years: How Technology Will Shape The Future of Content Marketing.

In addition to presenting anonymous feedback collected in their survey, they also highlighted a selection of marketing thought leaders’ answers to a number of questions that provided additional insight into the survey results.

As well as having a verbatim quote, the post also featured the influencer’s photo and a link to their twitter handle, or a preferred bio.

That’s an example of doing it right.

Lee Odden, Heidi Cohen, and the Content Marketing Institute also are regular ethical curators of influencer content.

Check them out for great examples of how to put your curated content to use.

For a crash course in ethical content curation, check out the CMI content curation checklist.

If you’re still unsure as to how to ethically curate content, you’ll want to attend our upcoming #ContentChat Twitter Chat with Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, where we’ll be discussing just that.

image credit: shutterstock

Erika Heald

Erika Heald is a San Francisco-based marketing consultant and freelance writer. She focuses on helping technology and specialty food start-ups define their content marketing strategy to drive lead generation and customer loyalty. Erika led and grew high-performance content marketing teams at Highwire PR, Anaplan, and Achievers. You can find her on her blog and , or hosting the weekly #ContentChat Twitter chat.

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