In “Sponsored Conversations: FTC Guidelines Impact Companies and Bloggers” by Kami Watson Huyse, a PR practitioner, discusses the change these new guidelines will have on the PR field.
Do your tweet or blog an opinion about a product and service and get paid for it? Do you know you are helping the company advertise and you must disclosure that relationship? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established new guidelines, which outlines if a content creator is being paid or received any type of freebies from the company, as of Dec. 1, 2009, they must disclosure that relationship.
The FTC has laid out new truth-in-advertising guidelines such as:
- Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
- Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
- Advertisements cannot be unfair.
The new set of guidelines explains that if you are a blogger who writes endorsements or accepts any kind of merchandise/service from a company you must disclose that relationship to your readers.
So how does this affect public relations? The guidelines also say that any business reaching out to content creators– Bloggers, Tweeters, YouTubers, or Facebookers, must be aware of these guidelines and do everything in their power to make sure the relationship is disclosed.
One editorial from The New York Times, said that “deceiving consumers has long been illegal” and the FTC is “concerned over the potential growth of deceptive advertising online” so they amended the guidelines to include blogs, Twitter and other platforms of online communication.
Telling the truth in PR is essential. The truth must exist in the PR field or you and your company will lose credibility.
Bloggers themselves are split on this idea. Some think the new guidelines are pointless, like blogger Katja Presnal, who says that her opinions are not necessarily influenced by these freebies. She points out that ethical bloggers already are following these guidelines of transparency. Others like blogger Bill Sledzik, says that every blogger should embrace these new changes of transparency because readers desrve the right to know if money and/or services exchanged hands.
As PR practitioners, we should always encourage the bloggers that we reach out to on behalf of our clients to disclose the relationship, if any, they have with the company. Social media has become a sanctuary for deception because many content creators do not reveal their relationships, therefore, the consumer does not know whom or what to believe.
There may be some bloggers who do not want to disclose their relationships. What can you as a PR practitioner do? Huyse suggests that you could send the blogger an email reminding them to disclose it in the post along with a quick explanation of the FTC’s new rules.
PR is about building and maintaining relationships and if you deceive your publics they are going to view you as untrustworthy. Be open and transparent with your publics.
The one thing missing in the FTC’s new guidelines is how is it going to be enforced? Is it up to PR practionterns to police ourselves and/or others? Do you think the new guidelines will further place transparency as important aspect in PR? Will the guidelines actually impact change?