BlissDom, Disclosure, Super Bowl ads and a new survey

by Susan Getgood on February 8, 2010 · 3 comments

in Blog with Integrity,Blogging,Ethics,Professional Blogging For Dummies,Speaking

Apart from my rather hectic return North on Friday (which you can read about on Snapshot Chronicles Roadtrip), BlissDom was absolutely great, and I wish I could have stayed longer.

BlissDom and Disclosure

As promised, here is a PDF of the complete slide deck from the “You Should Know Better” general session on Friday morning. Kristen Berman from Intuit covered best accounting practices, Liza Barry-Kessler gave an overview of the legal issues facing bloggers in their small businesses, and I talked about disclosure as a best practice and the FTC guidelines on endorsements and testimonials.

We were lucky that Stacey Ferguson was in the audience. She is an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission advertising practices division and was able to help answer a few questions.

I don’t want to dive too deep into disclosure in this post but one thing most definitely bears repeating: the FTC does not dictate how you should disclose other than it must be “clear and conspicuous.” There are many ways to be clear and conspicuous. For example, put the disclosure at the top of the post, at the top of the blog sidebar or within the text of the post as you write about whatever it is. All pretty clear. You just have to be sure that the reader has an opportunity to see the disclosure without searching for it. But… there is no checklist that says the FTC approves these five ways to disclose and does not approve these other five.

That’s why best practices are so very very important. Also common sense. For example, if you have written a long, long blog post, putting the disclosure at the bottom of your post, and only at the bottom, isn’t too conspicuous. No one says you can’t put it there — not even the FTC —  but I will tell you that it’s not a best practice.

On the other hand, if you write snappy short product bits that fit in the first screen (“above the fold”),  a disclosure at the bottom of the post is pretty conspicuous. It’s simple common sense – just ask yourself, if I was reading someone else’s blog, where would I want to be informed about the endorsement or material relationship?

Stacey also made it clear to the audience that the FTC does not require that blogs have a disclosure policy nor does a blanket disclosure policy cancel out the need to disclose in your posts.

Best practices demand that you do MORE than the FTC requires. A disclosure policy is a best practice that helps your readers understand your point of view, your relationships and your biases.  Use best practices and common sense, and you should be fine.  The slides from the BlissDom session have some suggestions, and Blog with Integrity will have more free webinars on this and related topics like copyright and fair use.

Super Bowl Ads
Liked: Snickers, VW, Clydesdales [Updated 2/9 to add that I also liked the NFL, Google and HomeAway ads, all of which were spot-on in their branding]
Didn’t like: All the misogyny (Dodge, Bridgestone, Dove, Go Daddy), creepy eTrade babies, people acting like dolphins, stuffed animals acting like people

Survey for Professional Blogging for Dummies
I’m heads down most days on my book right now, and I’d like your help. A key feature in the book is case studies, anecdotes and tips from successful bloggers. I’d also like to have some trend data about professional blogs. How are people making money? Do they have a business plan? What sorts of opportunities have bloggers gotten as a result of their blogs? So, I’ve got a little survey up on Survey Monkey. If you write a professional or small business blog, I hope you will take it.

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Blogging Session Notes Link-Up! – Angela England
February 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm


1 Deb February 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Great presentation. My business’ lawyer and accountant advised me that conferences are essentially sponsored trips as well as it is part of most conference business practices to use sponsored money to defray costs, and the conference itself is a branded business too. Conferences often ask people to, in fact, thank those sponsors. So when we post praise for that conference or talk about any of the brands or swag that were sponsored, we should disclose what was received, but it’s incredibly uncommon to see anyone do that. The accounting is driving me crazy, and then the disclosure is a whole additional thing. Is this something you’ve discussed?

2 Susan Getgood February 13, 2010 at 1:16 pm

We asked Mary Engle from the FTC about swag bags during the November Blog with Integrity webinar. She compared the swag bag to the guidelines’ example of the free dog food coupon given by the store simply because the person often buys dog food. There’s no targeting of the person individually by name, so no real relationship — other than the basic consumer relationship.

I am not a lawyer (although thought I wanted to be one when I was a child) but honestly, it seems to me that our relationship with the conference’s sponsors is too distant to require disclosure.

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