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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Constant content: Digital marketing drives firms to outsource

Janet Attard, founder of BusinessKnowHow.com, a Bohemia-based small-business

Janet Attard, founder of BusinessKnowHow.com, a Bohemia-based small-business information website, has protections in her agreements with the freelancers she uses to produce content for her site. Photo Credit: Newsday / Don Jacobsen

In today’s digital world, most small businesses must generate a steady stream of fresh marketing content to stay competitive.

They interact with customers and potential customers through various channels, including emailed newsletters, blog posts and postings on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Depending on the business, the marketing content might include company or industry developments, product information or lifestyle tips.

Churning out all that content on your own can be time-consuming, so many small businesses outsource their content creation.

While outsourcing has become a common practice, it comes with its own set of risks that need to be addressed, experts say.

“When outsourcing content, businesses need to have a well-drafted agreement in place to help protect their companies,” says Kimberly Malerba, chair of the employment law group at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale.

Without such an agreement, you can’t establish ownership rights to the content; the contractor who produced it would own the copyright to the material, she says.

This makes it difficult to repurpose that content or use it across multiple platforms, she says.

For example, a freelancer may write content for your blog that you want to reuse on your website, Malerba says.

That’s why it pays to make the agreement as all-encompassing as possible to give you unlimited rights to use the content, says Tom O’Rourke, a partner at Bodner & O’Rourke, an intellectual property law firm in Melville.

In addition to securing ownership rights, you should require the freelancers/contractors to guarantee that the work they produce is original and not copied from someone or somewhere else, O’Rourke says.

The agreement should also include language that indemnifies you from any damage caused by a freelancer/contractor, including copyrighted content from another source in their work, he says.

Janet Attard, founder of BusinessKnowHow.com, a Bohemia-based small-business information website, has these protections in her agreements with the freelancers she uses to produce content for her site.

She also vets her freelancers carefully and checks their work.

“On my site people expect accuracy, so we edit the copy and check it pretty carefully,” she says.

To help verify they haven’t plagiarized content, she uses tools like Copyscape.com to search for any duplicate content. With new writers, she’ll also pull sentences and conduct Google searches to see if they come up elsewhere.

“If I find someone has copied content without permission, I won’t use the work or them again either,” Attard says.

Vetting freelancers is critical, says Ruth Carter, owner and attorney at Phoenix-based Carter Law Firm, which specializes in business, intellectual property and social media law.

She advises companies to work with a professional marketer or freelancer who does this for a living.

“You have to find someone who is the right fit for your company,” she says.

Carter says it’s also important for your contractor agreement to address issues around social media.

If you’re hiring a freelancer to create your social media accounts, it should be clear in the contract that you own those accounts, not the freelancer, she says. Also make sure you have the passwords for those accounts in case you need to take over the accounts, Carter says.

And focus not only on written content but also on images, O’Rourke adds.

“The rights to use images — including the frequency of use, where the images are used and modifications to the image — are issues that come up all the time,” he says.

Generally, photographers aren’t willing to give up ownership rights of their images and will charge a fee each time they are used, he says. You should be upfront with them from the start about how you want to use the images and perhaps have them factor that into their initial fees.

“The goal is to be proactive and have the agreement in place before the work is done, so it’s not a problem after the fact,” Malerba says.

Fast Fact

More than a third of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending over the next 12 months.

Source: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs

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