Disclosure Policies for Bloggers

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I recently learned some information that is very important for bloggers. While I realize that people don't like talking about things like compliance and rules, as a blogger you need to know what the rules are so you can follow them. I hope that these resources with strengthen your knowledge base and help to secure your blogging future.

The FTC has very strict rules on disclosing what you receive from brands, sponsors or advertisers in the form of cash or any other type of compensation. In the FTC guidelines,  they “discuss what is an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

I had previously added a disclosure policy and statement at the bottom of the website on the My Book Club website since I do receive books from publishers however;  I did not have anything on this blog that needed to be disclosed. It is important for bloggers to think about the bigger picture as they change what they do or are approached with offers or requests. You and your website will evolve over time as you grow into being a blogger and your blog needs to be updated to reflect this.

This post by Simply Stacie talks about How to Write Disclosure Statements for Your Blog Posts and as you can see, this isn't a one size fits all topic. CMP.LY is a very comprehensive site with a lot of helpful information.

CMP.LY's 3 C's of disclosure and transparency:

  1. Compliance with FTC Guides
  2. Credibility
  3. Clarity

Two smart and very different disclosure pages on some great blogs:

The Glamorous Code of Ethics by Marcy Massura

Domestic Executive Online Policies by Michelle Kay

I found a great website that lets you generate a disclosure policy for your blog: DisclosurePolicy.org. I used it to create one for this blog, it is very easy and goes step by step. This is the policy I generate as an example but please make sure that you create your own disclosure policy based on your blog and your needs.

“This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog does not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, we will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations.

The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. Those advertisements will be identified as paid advertisements.

The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest. To get your own policy, go to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org”

The bottom line is follow the rules and make sure that you disclose things properly on your blog. I hope that these resources help you “be transparent with your readers — being proactive and responsible by disclosing your connections is about much more than FTC compliance. Being clear with your audience will reinforce your credibility, enhance your engagement and ultimately help retain the integrity of the social web for us all.” (from CMP.LY) Be smart!

Any tips or suggestions you would add for compliance on these regulations? Please share them with me in the comments.


Do you Disclose Affiliate Links?

Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons.

Article by Peg Fitzpatrick

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  1. Peggy, this is an incredibly helpful post. I love the examples you shared and that site to craft a disclosure statement is totally amazing! You are very right about how blogging evolves. Naturally when any blogger starts, they aren’t likely to be getting products sent to them and being paid, they have to focus on building content etc. but it’s very true that if you get good at what you are doing, these opportunities are going to come up and it’s better to have it all laid out. Thanks again for this great resource! You rock!

    1.  @Milaspage I appreciate that, Mila! I think if we look back to when we started blogging, we have learned a lot and need to remember that things are always evolving. The FTC rules have been in place but as you mentioned, most new bloggers don’t need them then might not learn about them either. Obviously the FTC is very busy but I am sure that they enforce their rules when people are reported and why take a chance?
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2.  @ChuckBartok It is important to think about updating bios, policies and many things that people don’t think about once they set them up.
    Thanks for reading and commenting. 

  3. Thanks for sharing! I need to address disclosure issues on my personal blog, and I also try to keep that stuff in mind for the business blog I manage. 

  4. Great post, Peg!
    As we discussed yesterday on #BlogChat, compliance is only one element of social disclosure. A blogger’s reputation needs the trust of his/her readers. Risking that trust by failing to disclose is just not worth it. And, as you illustrate, disclosure need not be a sterile, legal document. 
    As tough as it might be, best practices include putting a disclosure on every relevant post, plus the Tweets and other social messages that point to the post. The objective is to leave no doubt that, regardless of where in your “message chain” the reader entered the thread, s/he was made aware that a disclosure exists right from the get-go.

    1.  @neilglassman So glad that you like it! What an important topic and so much to cover. Next I need to do research on the rest of the social disclosure piece. For example, a post with a review is shared on Twitter, what if you share that post and it doesn’t have any disclosure information and the tweet is from you. Are you then the responsible party for sharing the reviewed post?
      I agree with adding a statement at the bottom of each post and will add it when appropriate for my blogs. It is always best to be transparent and make sure that you are following the guidelines. 
      I appreciate your comments and learned so much from the chat and your CMP.LY site.

  5. Peg, it’s great that you’re sharing this information about FTC disclosure requirements so more people know about them since they apply to many people who may not even be aware of them. Back in October, 2011, I wrote an article for Social Media Examiner called “Are You Disclosing? What You Need to Know about FTC Rules and Social Media”. It may be very helpful as well. I also write a Blog Law series (I’m a lawyer in real life) and FTC Disclosure has been a topic covered. If you’re interested in the articles or sharing them with your readers I’m happy to provide you the URLs. I do not want to put a link in your comments because I’m not trying to “link bait”. Thanks again for writing this and letting more people know that disclosure isn’t just a good idea, but is actually mandatory.

  6.  @susansilver I will have to go look up your interview, very cool!
    This is a complicated topic and it is important to cover your bases fully. It isn’t worth the risk or losing the trust of your readers. Thanks for your comments, Susan!

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