Today, an AP story about the FTC’s review of the guidelines for testimonials and endorsements and a John Dvorak PC Mag column about same stirred up the blogosphere a wee bit, although the scintillating *yawn* news of Jon & Kate plus 8 minus 1 seemed a potent distraction.
While the spate of coverage leads me to wonder if the FTC is getting closer to announcing the new guidelines — the AP prefers to lead, not lag, the news — nothing was announced today. Apart from the fact that it is officially summer, nothing has changed since the last round of posts and articles on the topic one month ago.
The FTC is reviewing its guidelines on endorsements and testimonials and expects to issue new ones this summer. These guidelines will affect social media and viral marketing. They may also impact affiliate marketing, such as Amazon.
If you are upset about this, I have some questions for you.
- Do you want advertisers to lie to you?
- Do you want to wonder whether a commercial endorsement is honestly from the heart of the writer, or from the keys of a copywriter?
Right. I didn’t think so.
The enforcement guidelines on endorsements and testimonials exist to make sure that consumers have the information they need to judge a commercial endorsement. That is the FTC‘s job, to protect consumers .
The Federal Trade Commission is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection works For The Consumer to prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practices in the marketplace. The Bureau:
- Enhances consumer confidence by enforcing federal laws that protect consumers
- Empowers consumers with free information to help them exercise their rights and spot and avoid fraud and deception
- Wants to hear from consumers who want to get information or file a complaint about fraud or identity theft
It’s NOT about the blogger, or your credibility. It’s about whether the reader — the consumer – would have a different impression of your opinion if it were compensated versus unsolicited. Your ethics could be impeccable, your opinion unchanged by the commercial transaction of free product or paid post. It doesn’t matter.
It’s not about you.
It’s all about whether the reader would have a different understanding, and you can’t decide that.
Hence the guidelines, so we can understand our responsibilities under the law, and the need for disclosure.
This doesn’t mean bloggers shouldn’t accept review product or free trips or whatever else companies might be offering for consideration. If you’ve got a property that companies consider valuable, why not profit from it. You just need to understand that under the FTC rules, if you are compensated, either directly or in product, the FTC guidelines for commercial endorsements may apply to you.
I recommend that bloggers publish their review and disclosure policy on their blogs, and if active on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, a policy that covers your potential activities in these networks. I had updated my blog statements a month ago, but today I added links on Facebook and Twitter to clarify how I might mention products on these status-oriented sites.
Your readers decide if you are credible.
The FTC is just asking that you provide them with all the information they need to make that assessment. That’s everything from what and how you say it, to whether you may have been influenced by others.
You want that from the sites and blogs you visit.
Don’t begrudge it to your audience.