The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved final revisions to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials (Guides) that will go into effect Dec. 1, 2009. The revised Guides embody the broadest changes to occur in regards to endorsements and testimonials in almost 30 years! Due to these significant changes, the way public relations firms and their clients use blogs and social networking sites as marketing tools will undergo changes and have new rules to follow. Whether a PR practitioner likes the new FTC regulations or not is irrelevant; beginning Dec. 1 they must be followed.
Here are 11 things PR firms are encouraged to follow in response to the FTC changes:
- Advise bloggers with whom there is a material connection (i.e. provide payment or free product for review, etc.) to disclose the relationship with the client whenever making a positive review.
- Monitor company’s/client’s bloggers to ensure they make the necessary disclosures and their statements are not misleading or bias. If the blogger doesn’t follow the guidelines, cease all sponsorships to the blogger and halt the publication of the misleading representations when they are discovered.
- If hiring a blog service, confirm that the service provides guidance and training to its bloggers to ensure blogs are being done correctly.
- Tell employees of the client or its PR firm should clearly disclose their relationship to the client if posting messages on on-line discussion boards.
- Introduce written policies and procedures to client’s employees concerning new rules of social media participation.
- Advise “street team” members who receive any form of consideration for promoting a client’s products or services to disclose their connection to the client.
- Advise celebrities to disclose their relationship with the client when they are paid for promoting products in media – talk shows, interviews and social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
- Require spokespeople to undergo enhanced media training to ensure they understand what disclosures must be made in the media and what representations they can make about the client’s product or service.
- Consider the target audience for the blog, social media site or other communication venue to determine the appropriate level of disclosure. First, ask yourself whether the intended audience of the message is likely to be deceived with the disclosure of some fact or circumstance.
- Seek advice from legal counsel to help determine what should be disclosed in particular situations when the client and PR firm are having difficulty with the revised Guides
- And just for our blog readers, we’ve included an additional step to how PR should respond to FTC blogging regulations… Attend the 2010 Texas PR Leadership Day and Gala “Get Connected!” conference where you will learn how to be Web 2.0 savvy! Visit TPRA for more details.