Yesterday, the FTC announced new guidelines that could have a huge impact between PR pros and bloggers.
In short, there’s two parts to watch: First is disclosure regarding advertisements, endorsements, paid endorsements, paid-in-kind endorsements, etc. The second is about accuracy of bloggers’ claims.
While the social media universe is all abuzz today, from a PR professional’s perspective these guidelines fundamentally change nothing. You may not realize it, but we’ve always been liable on these fronts. It’s just that most have been oblivious to the laws. (Remember, ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law.)
All along when pitching bloggers (or any press, really) AND providing free product or services for review, we have been required to tell them in writing to disclose that they, in fact, received freebies. Also, if these folks may inaccurate claims based on a pitch (even if we didn’t give them the inaccurate info.), we are responsible.
So instead of complaining about it, here’s what you should consider. BUT, like anything else, this is my opinion based on my knowledge of the law. You must consult your own legal counsel before creating your own policies and actions regarding social media (hows that?):
1. Create a standard disclosure statement regarding free product and the like and make it part of all your email communications. I’m not sure if the mouse print thing is considered enough here, but it seems it should suffice. Again, I’ll talk to our legal folks and follow up…but the point is, make it part of your standard communication, and not some last minute awkward…”Oh, hey, don’t forget to tell everyone I gave you this for free.”
2. Get a REAL social media monitoring system. I’m not talking Google alerts, guys. You need a system like Radian6 with a dedicated staffer to monitor ALL the chatter across blogs, forums and social networks (there’s MANY more than Facebook, BTW.) Get this alerts in real-time, and set the record straight immediately.
There were about 250 great business reasons to do this before, but maybe this is the one that gets companies to take monitoring and reporting seriously. It’s not an intern job! Social media marketing is moving faster than most even know, and now the legal system is catching up. If you haven’t already, you should do the same.