FTC Disclosure Guidelines for Bloggers – In a Nutshell 1


disclose-definition-wiredprworks

Going to BlogHer? Have questions about FTC disclosures?

If you’re like me, you answered both questions YES!

Because other bloggers may also have FTC questions, I asked Ruth Wagner, my friend and compliance/disclosure expert, to give us a simple guide we can use to make it easy to add disclosures to blog posts and social media updates.

When I asked Ruth to write this post I found out that she’ll be at BlogHer, too!. Full disclosure: I like to use CMP.LY to add disclosures to my blog posts and social media updates. I have no material relationship with CMP.LY.

How do you disclose your brand relationships?

FTC Disclosure Guidelines for Bloggers

Guest post by Ruth Wagner, vice president of sales, CMP.LY

If you missed the Federal Trade Commission’s announcement in March of 2013 regarding clear and conspicuous disclosure, here’s what you need to know in a nutshell: you need to be transparent.

If you’re paid or have a material connection to the brand that you are promoting, you need to make it very clear to your audience. Basically, if Grandma wouldn’t understand that you were compensated in some way, you need to disclose.

The FTC .Com Disclosures guidelines address the evolution of digital, social and mobile platforms – on which consumers receive their messaging – and how brands and their endorsers can best disclose.

While the overall requirements of disclosure haven’t changed, the most important update and take-away for those working in social media is that endorsements and disclosures must be made in all media – that includes short-form social channels such as Twitter and Instagram.

Of significance, the guidelines explain the FTC’s position on where and how disclosures need to be made:

  • Proximity: Yes, even in the space-constrained ad or promotion, your disclosure must be in close proximity to the statement or endorsement. An endorsement in one tweet followed by a disclosure in the second tweet is not enough.
  • Prominence: Disclosures must be prominent and viewable on any device and not buried in the web page. So if you’re including your disclosure in 6pt type at the end of your blog post, it will not cut it. Size and placement matters!
  • Multimedia Messages: Disclosures are also required for audio or video claims and endorsements need to be clear and conspicuous to the messaging. Disclosures must be clear in video clips; fleeting text is not sufficient.

Answering Questions from Bloggers about Disclosure

In the course of preparing this post, a few questions came up that I asked Ruth to answer. Do any of these sound familiar?

Question: If you are invited to an event and given gifts (even gift cards) with no obligation to write a post…and you do a post anyway…do you disclose the gifts? 

Answer: Yes, you need to disclose the nature of the gift or event.

Question: Also, for events with other social/blogger types, do we disclose the dinner was paid for? How about giveaways – it’s anything over $25 right? 

Answer: There are no price restrictions – if you were given gifts or incented in some way to endorse, you have to disclose.

Question: A few of my friends have a promotional agreement with a clothing company who told them to add #ad in front of every tweet and Instagram post – is that ok?

Answer: The FTC made it clear that all disclosures must be in language that is understandable to the reader, which means that the use of #spon or #spons may not be clear to all. The FTC suggests using #ad, “AD” or “Sponsored” in tweets or posts.

Hyperlinks that are in “plain language” to the reader are acceptable, examples: paid-po.stsponsored-po.stdisclosur.es

These links are clear and conspicuous and provide more context to the nature of the endorsement and connection to the brand. As a disclosure, these are offered by my company CMP.LY and are free to any blogger for use. You can see my disclosure here as an example: employee-po.st/6SeMbS.

Where can bloggers go to get a disclosure guide and be safe within the FTC guidelines?

You can find more information at: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2013/03/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf

What benefits can brands and bloggers get from disclosure - besides being in FTC compliance?

This is an obvious conclusion – trust and respect from your consumers.

The FTC has made it very clear that it is the brand or agency’s responsibility to insure disclosures are made and monitored for omission, but the responsibility also lands on the blogger to be transparent.

Don’t forget about the court of public opinion – consumers are quick to call out a lack of transparency, which can lead to a PR nightmare and open the door to an FTC investigation.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney. The information provided herein is not legal advice and is only based on my own experiences as a marketer. None of the above should be considered a substitute for you consulting your own legal counsel who will guide you and your company (or blog) in how to manage disclosures and endorsements.

About CMP.LY

CMP.LY is a leading provider of social media measurement, management and monitoring solutions. CMP.LY empowers businesses and individuals alike to take control of their social media through a range of proprietary products that enable deeper insight into and stronger oversight of social initiatives.

About Ruth Wagner

Ruth-Wagner-CMPLY

Ruth Wagner is a dynamic and respected experienced professional who has focused her career in recent years on start-up ventures dealing with emerging platforms of technology and social media.  Prior to joining CMP.LY, Ruth was with XM Satellite Radio and was responsible for the initial start-up of the Midwest offices and one of the top revenue producers nationally.  Prior to XM, Ruth was one of the early pioneers of the America-On-Line digital offices in NY.  She also holds the title of top revenue producers there as well.  Since May 2010, Ruth has been VP of Sales and investor in CMP.LY. Ruth holds a degree in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Connect with Ruth Wagner on LinkedIn and twitter @RWagner731.

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Disclosure and compliance are two topics that come up at every blogger conference I go to. Last month, it was BlogWell. This month it’s BlogHer.

So thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to answer my questions in advance.

Do you have a compliance question? Ask it here and we’ll track down the answer.

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About Barbara Rozgonyi

Barbara Rozgonyi publishes WiredPRWorks.com and directs CoryWest Media, an integrated social media marketing and PR firm. As Social Media Club (SMC) Chicago’s founder, Barbara is a recognized spokesperson for brands, bloggers and the social media marketing PR industry. Barbara invites you to join the Wired PR Works community on Facebook or to contact her regarding interviews, partner promotions or speaking engagements at 630.207.7530.

  • http://www.jsha.com/news/ Marketing Communication Programs

    Thanks for sharing details regarding FTC blogging guidelines. Helpful post for any blogger. Good read.