Whether you’re trying to score an internship or attempting to land your first post-grad gig, you’ll need to provide work samples and portfolio pieces to get your foot in the recruiter’s door. Sometimes it’s a struggle to come up with the correct materials to best represent yourself – what if you want to get into a marketing position for a cosmetics brand, but none of your previous experiences birthed beauty-focused social media posts? How about if you decide to become a travel writer, yet you only have generic school writing pieces to share since this was a pretty last minute decision and all? The list goes on. This is where blogging comes in as a useful tool to fill in the gaps.
Blogging is a great way to promote yourself in an area you would otherwise be lacking in. Blogging can showcase your writing abilities within a specific market, and it also lends itself to highlighting other skills you may have such as photography, video editing, graphic design and social media engagement. It’s a tool that communication students can benefit from utilizing no matter what focus they have, or what area they wish to go into after graduation. Before you start brainstorming domains and setting up those editorial calendars though, you need to set yourself up for success with some basic legal guidelines – no one wants to hire someone whose blog screams, “I LOVE PLAGIARISM.”
Here’s five quick tips to make sure your blog doesn’t get you sued instead of hired:
1. IF YOU’RE NOT USING YOUR OWN PICTURES, YOU BETTER CREDIT YOUR PHOTO SOURCES
Be safe by sticking with copyright-free images from a vast collection of stock photo sites, or head over to Creative Commons for public domain photos that only require crediting the owner among other small restrictions. Personally, I’d recommend just taking the time to pick up some photography skills and snap your own photos since this stuff seems to be growing more and more as a desired skill in the communication realm.
2. DON’T DABBLE IN DEFAMATION
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Legal Guide for Bloggers, defamation is defined as, “a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone’s reputation, and published ‘with fault,’ meaning as a result of negligence or malice.” Basically, don’t be the Blair Waldorf of the Upper East Side of the internet, spewing out gossip to ruin others’ reputations. Take the time to school yourself on public and private individuals, slander and libel, opinions and other legal terms that show up in defamation cases.
3. BE ORIGINAL BECAUSE PLAGIARISM IS LAME
Imitation is not the highest form of flattery, especially if you’re using someone else’s stuff without giving them credit. Anything that’s your own original content is fair game, along with common knowledge, but once you enter into the realm of quotes, ideas and information you’re playing with fire. If you’re unsure of what constitutes as plagiarism, do yourself a favor and read this informational piece on the topic by Megan Krause.
4. UNDERSTAND HOW FAIR USE APPLIES TO YOUR CONTENT
Oliver Herzfeld and Marc Aaron Melzer do a fantastic job of discussing this concept within Fair Use in the Age of Social Media. Fair use revolves around the idea that copyrighted work can occasionally be used for certain purposes, but there are tons of restrictions and guidelines for this practice. Do your homework before you post anything to make sure you’re not blogging yourself into a potential lawsuit.
5. TAKE THIS ADVICE AND APPLY IT TO THE REST OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be blogging away without ever sharing an ounce of your content elsewhere, so abiding by legal practices shouldn’t only occur with your blog. Plus, in the world of communication, recruiters are likely checking up on your social media platforms – even the ones you didn’t list on your application.
There you have it – five tips to keep your blog from legally costing you big bucks. Have extra advice that you think should’ve made the list? Let me know in the comments below.