Do you have a disclosure policy in place on your blog? Do you make it clear in your posts when you receive an item for review, are sent on an all-expense-paid trip, or post ads? If not, you need to make sure you begin disclosing your relationship with brands and companies beginning on December 1st, 2009. Better yet, start now.
If a blogger frequently receives products from manufacturers because he or she is known to have wide readership within a particular demographic group that is the manufacturers’ target market, the blogger’s statements are likely to be deemed to be “endorsements.”
Our opinions or reviews, as bloggers, are now considered endorsements by the Federal Trade Commission, regardless of any compensation above receipt of product for review. Although it will be difficult to enforce, bloggers and the companies they endorse can be fined for not following these guidelines.
But I only post my opinion.
A consumer who purchases a product with his or her own money and praises it on a personal blog or on an electronic message board will not be deemed to be providing an endorsement.
These new guidelines do not affect an average mom (or dad) who blogs about their daily life with kids. If you have a favorite car seat, you purchased it yourself, and you are simply providing your opinion, you need not worry.
All media is not created equal.
The Commission does not consider reviews published in traditional media (i.e., where a newspaper, magazine, or television or radio station with independent editorial responsibility assigns an employee to review various products or services as part of his or her official duties, and then publishes those reviews) to be sponsored advertising messages.
There is power in social media, the new media. We are being held to higher standards than newspaper editors and magazine contributors. Yes, it seems to be a double-standard, but look at it this way – Our blogs and Twitter streams are where moms are looking for honest opinions on the best strollers on the market and whether or not kids really do like V8 V-Fusion. Why? Because we are real parents and are trusted voices. Don’t look at these new guidelines as a negative, but rather as an elevation – a promotion, if you will. The Federal Trade Commission sees us as real and positive influencers.
So, how do I make sure I’m on the up and up?
- Disclose. Disclose. Disclose. “Clearly and conspicuously” is as much as the guidelines suggest. Here at From Dates to Diapers, I have my Disclosure Policy posted on the right sidebar of the front page. I also place, within my posts, wording that indicates whether or not I received the product I talk about directly from the company (or public relations firm) who makes, distributes, or represents it. These are wise practices for any blogger who is sought out by companies to provide opinions.
- Avoid making blanket claims. Do not tout a product as being a cure-all, or make promises that a certain item will produce certain results. Only write about products from your perspective – “XYZ worked for me,” or “I noticed that XYZ benefited me and my family in such-and-such a way.” Do not be afraid to give your opinion, but avoid making specific performance claims.
- Be authentic. Be real. Only give your honest opinion. If you received an item for review, test it out for a significant period of time, have your kids test it out – and only after you’ve actually used the product – offer your thoughts. Parents want to hear the real opinions of parents.
Here at From Dates to Diapers, we only write about products that work well for us (our family), or make family life fun. I have yet to waste the time, space, and energy writing about products that do not resonate well with us or may not benefit my friends (aka readers). This is not to say that you will not find me talking about what may not be so great about an almost perfect product, but I will not focus on the negative, nor will I advertise products we do not use or like. My readers know this about me.
The long and short of it all.
Your readers deserve to know when you have received an item for free, especially if you have nothing but good things to say about it. If your readers trust your opinion and know you would not steer them wrong, only good things can come of your transparency.
**I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one on TV. These were simply my thoughts on the new guidelines. Do with them what you wish.**