The Federal Trade Commission has been cracking down on companies that are not forthcoming about paying for their endorsements. In 2009, the FTC adopted guidelines “making clear that many of the rules that apply to advertising and testimonials in the print world are still going to carry weight in the sometimes confusing and chaotic world of blogs and other new media,” Joe Mullin explains in an article for paidcontent.org.
Recently, Legacy Learning Systems was fined $250,000 for commissioning positive reviews of its educational DVD designed to teach audiences how to play the guitar. The company and its affiliate marketers failed, however, to disclose that the company had sponsored the praise for its product.
This situation raises an important point for PR practitioners: we are in a unique position–and have a personal responsibility–to make sure our companies and clients are disclosing information properly.
Says PRSA board member Marisa Vallbona in an article on prdaily.com:
“‘Tell–don’t ask–the blogger to disclose the fact [that the review is sponsored] in his or her review. Otherwise you’re asking the review to be considered fake and putting your and your client’s reputation at stake.'”