I’ve had a number of folks tell me my blog is not nearly as boring as they expect from a lawyer. So, uh thanks. Now imagine a blog written by a government lawyer. Pretty bleak, huh? Guess again. Lesley Fair is an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, and she writes a genuinely entertaining blog on the issues she sees from her perch in Washington, D.C.
Her most recent post is a really illuminating discussion on the FTC’s endorsement guidelines and some myths surrounding them. It’s worth the read. Very simply, the FTC requires that bloggers disclose any connection with the brand. Which means, among other things, that bloggers who write about products to disclose that they received one for free. It also means if you’re employed to market a product, and you write a blog singing its praises, you’d better let your readers know about it.
So what are the “myths”? How about the myth that so long as the blogger sincerely believes what he says there’s no need to disclose the connection? That’s a myth. It’s necessary to be honest in an endorsement, but it’s not sufficient. If you’re an endorser the FTC requires you to be honest and transparent. Batting .500 is not good enough.
Another myth? The notion that the FTC requires some sort of mandatory language detailing the connection. Actually, there are no magic words. Substance prevails over form. Which pretty much covers the next myth too. The disclosure can’t be buried in a link or otherwise in the fine print. So don’t waste your time looking for the magic FTC words, but also don’t waste time scheming how to hide whatever words you actually choose. Let you readers know. Believe me disappointed readers are much less of a hassle than an angry FTC. Readers don’t have subpoena power!