If bloggers are a part of your marketing plan, you need to know about the recently released FTC guidelines for endorsements and testimonial ads. You could be liable for false claims and get hit with unspecified fines if you are found violating the guidelines.
So what do you need to know? If you offer free products to bloggers in return for reviews, or if you pay for reviews, you should review the revised guidelines (PDF). Any positive reviews could be influenced by a free product or payment — and the FTC wants that disclosed to the consumer.
While it has been noted that the guidelines are mostly educational, you’re not off the hook. You need to make sure that any reviewers you use are honest, that they don’t make outlandish claims about your product and what it can do, and that they disclose their relationship with you.
Whether the reviewer writes on their own web site, on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, or even a forum does not matter. In any of those places – anywhere their opinion can influence consumers – they must disclose the relationship. And you need to make sure that they do. Even if you have no control over the review, you need to emphasize to the writer that they must disclose the relationship — so you’re not liable for their compliance.
If you’d like to find out more information about the revised guidelines, there’s no shortage of information. The New York Times has covered the story a couple of times. NPR interviewed Rich Cleland of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, and other sites have covered it as well.
But the best thing you can do for you and your company is to read the guidelines yourself instead of relying on any of us to interpret it for you. All eighty-one pages of it.
Have you had a chance to read it yet? Did you even know the guidelines had been released? And do you worry about staying in compliance? If so, will this affect your outreach in any way? If you’ll be curtailing your review giveaways, I’d like to hear about it.