Confidentiality is one of those terms that you rarely hear about until something goes wrong—which sucks, because at that point, the damage has been done. Breaches of confidentiality are very serious, but totally preventable, as long as you know what to look out for. Here's your confidentiality cheat sheet so you can understand and avoid any slip-ups as you start your career.
What is confidentiality?
Confidentiality is defined as, "the state of keeping or being kept secret or private." When it comes to advertising and marketing, it refers to keeping what you and the agency are working on on the DL.
When you get hired full-time, there will likely be a confidentiality clause within the paperwork you sign, or a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) if you're interning or freelance. Brands may also require agencies to sign NDAs to participate in a pitch or when they become clients.
Why does confidentiality matter?
As an industry where our ideas and strategies are what we're paid for and what give brands their competitive advantage, confidentiality is hugely important. Here are a few example scenarios to show why it matters:
- If a brand shares non-public materials with its agency (like a research study they paid a lot of money for), it would be valuable info to its competitors if it got out.
- If a brand catches wind of a big campaign launch or innovation strategy its competitor is planning, it could steal the idea and be first to market.
- If an agency finds out who else is pitching a client, it could use that info to its advantage.
- Brands pay a lot of money for the campaigns agencies create for them. If images/video/the concept leak before the launch, the campaign's impact may be diminished.
What are some common confidentiality slip-ups?
1) Chances are, you have friends that also work in advertising and marketing. Mentioning the details of a pitch you're working on over drinks seems harmless—unless your friend's agency is also pitching the same client.
2) Including work in your portfolio that hasn't been approved by the agency. If a campaign or project you worked on isn't live, don't add it to your book yet. And even if it's launched, be sure to check with your agency to make sure you have permission to include it.
3) Leaving confidential materials lying out in the open. A couple extra print-outs in a conference room or notes from your white board idea sesh up on a wall seem like NBD, but it is if clients come visit the office, or if you share the office space with another company. Remember to keep your materials to yourself and your team.
4) Taking photos in the office that include work. This one's an edge case, but I have heard of an intern getting fired from an agency (that takes confidentiality very seriously on behalf of its client) for taking a selfie with their desk/work in the background. Taking photos at the office is usually fine—just make sure you're not catching any confidential materials in the background.
You got this,