How SMEs can retain their creative ideas in comms
Posted by Amy Bell on 18 April 2024

How SMEs can retain their ideas and creative thinking in comms 

In a world where information is shared constantly online, retaining your out-of-the-box marketing communications ideas can be tricky. Sometimes it can feel like a catch-22 situation – for example, you might feel compelled to share some client work you’re super proud of across social media to showcase your capabilities and expertise, only to discover later down the line that a competitor has ‘borrowed’ your idea and repackaged it in a way that works for them.  

Of course, there’s nothing wrong in someone doing this (a little competition did never did any harm), you might even see it as a compliment. However, it starts to get difficult when brands within the same industry copy your ideas – and we’re not just talking an extension of an idea, we mean flat-out copying.  

Then, suddenly, it seems that everyone within the same niche is doing the same thing. This is not only frustrating for the company that pioneered the idea in the first place, but it also becomes lacklustre for the customers as well. 

Remaining creative and impressive while safeguarding your intellectual property rights is challenging – especially for SMEs who are particularly susceptible to adverse consequences if a large competitor swoops in and exploits their concepts.  

As we work with lots of SMEs and are a SME ourselves, we deemed it beneficial to offer our insights as to how protect your creative ideas. Here are five of our key tips to guarding your creative thinking in the communications world: 

1. Protect your ideas during proposals and pitches 

When a prospective client invites you to submit a proposal or pitch for new work, it’s crucial to keep your ideas under wraps until the pitch. Avoid sharing your work with anyone beforehand, and only disclose necessary information during the presentation. It’s advisable to request that the client sign a confidentiality agreement before the pitch as a precautionary measure. It’s also worth clarifying that the proposals you present can only be implemented upon signing a contract to start working with you. 

2. Use non-disclosure agreements 

An easy way to safeguard your ideas when working closely with clients is to provide them with a non-disclosure agreement at the outset, prior to commencing a project with them. By doing so, if you propose lots of ideas that are not utilised while working with them, the client is prevented from replicating them upon termination of the contract. 

3. Always document the idea process 

Documenting the ideation process from start to finish will help to prove ownership of your work. It enables you to collate notes and ideas in one place and means you have a physical document you can refer back to if contention arises.  

4. Exercise caution when choosing who to share your ideas with

Not everyone needs to see your ideas. Be mindful about sharing pioneering pieces of work across social media. It’s easy to forget the extent of your content’s reach. So, if you have any doubts, withhold your creations. While sharing ideas means you can foster valuable feedback, it’s important to weigh up gaining people’s thoughts against losing control over your concepts. 

5. Ask people to credit you

When sharing a creative ideas you could politely ask those you’re sharing it with to credit you if they choose to share it further. Alternatively, if the concept is visualised in the form of an asset, consider including your name on. This ensures you will get automatically credited if it gets shared.

6. Gain copyrighting permissions 

Lastly, if you’ve developed a truly pioneering concept like nothing else out there, consider registering for copyrights. These legally grant you with exclusive authorship rights, enabling you to control the use and distribution of your work.  

For more insightful thoughts from the Hey Me team, take a look at our blog on why work in the rail industry? 

“Since day one, Amy herself has fit seamlessly into our team, understanding the message we want to convey and the audiences we want to reach. Her upfront audit was invaluable in helping us internally hone our common voice, which has demonstrated itself in the consistency of the content we put out as a brand and as individuals within the company. Behind the scenes, Amy has instinctively adopted our internal communication methods (Slack, SharePoint) and works closely with our in-house graphic design team to ensure our graphics and copy are in sync.” Lucy Prior MBE - previously from 3Squared 2021
“I saved so much time after implementing a more structured approach which has given me the opportunity to focus on creating more content and work more closely with my clients. Amy and her team are easy to deal with and are quick to provide valuable solutions. I would not hesitate to work with Hey Me again in the future.” Karen Duncan - Lanehead Coniston
“I met Amy a few years ago at a Young Rail Professionals event and was able to provide her with an opportunity to manage the comms on a major alliance which she flourished at. Soon after she started, Marie came along to provide HR support across the multiple businesses. It seems only natural that being as dynamic and knowledge as they are, they are looking to work together on this new venture, which I am sure will be a huge success.” Karen Duncan - Lanehead Coniston
“I saved so much time after implementing a more structured approach which has given me the opportunity to focus on creating more content and work more closely with my clients. Amy and her team are easy to deal with and are quick to provide valuable solutions. I would not hesitate to work with Hey Me again in the future.” Karen Duncan - Lanehead Coniston

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