We’ve all sat in a movie theater as the same car floats around the screen. There’s that moment, “is this product placement?” You almost have a moment of, “am I being duped?” I am guilty of playing the guessing game as I watch TV and movies wondering where the product placement was. At the heart of the issue of disclosure remains the audience.
Content creators and the institutions who work with them all owe it to their audience to be transparent. For centuries the newspaper industry has built its reputation with a high amount of integrity. Household names are built through continued consistency, dedication to honest journalism and a high amount of ethical regard.
There’s a trust the reader puts into the hands of the writer that the facts being delivered are really facts, and that the separation between advertising and news was that of church and state.
So now as we watch the journalism industry change, we need to ensure we are operating at the highest levels of ethical standards–the same standards that made names The New York Times, Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle great. At the same time, bloggers and community leaders need to keep their coffee mugs filled up and the lights on in their home offices.
Where all around us technology has blurred lines, we need more honesty, sincerity and process when it comes to blogger disclosure so we can all sleep better at night. As more of our life moves online, as a society we need to ensure that we continue to respect our readers and the people who trust us. What’s shocking are reports that there are quite a few advertisers and agencies out there who are asking bloggers to violate FTC guidelines. One-off examples of corruption among brands, agencies and bloggers can tarnish the entire industry.
Let’s take a lesson from Louis Gray who encourages, “Being genuine, transparent and truthful, despite any perceived bias, will always win. Being honest and direct and over-disclosing to the point of amusement, is always better than having to disclose after the fact.” Here are two great examples of bloggers who’ve used creative disclosures that get the message across and feel truly bright and authentic.
1. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week has his own style created some handy visuals [with Louis Gray] for his posts. They are in the style of Tim Ferris, and while this isn’t the best example for every blogger, for Tim it suits him, and his readership. Tim Ferris is known for being different. He inspires creativity–and it makes sense that he would do something a little funky with his FTC disclosure. He provides a great way to disclose without losing his sense of personality and individuality.Tim Ferris is known for being different. He inspires creativity–and it makes sense that he would do something a little funky with his FTC disclosure. He provides a great way to disclose without losing his sense of personality and individuality.
2. The Handmade Home + Green Works. Here at Linqia we help brands share their stories and content with really influential community leaders. One of our group leaders Ashley Malone Mills of The Handmade Home participated in a campaign with Clorox Green Worksto create awareness and spark discussion around the Graffiti Gallery story. We were so impressed with Ashley’s work who did an incredible job with her campaign.
This genuine disclaimer is clearly written in the voice of the community leader Ashley. It’s short and sweet. You can sense the trust Ashley has with her readers. As a blogger or community leader it’s important to decide what you stand for before you set out to publish. Make a checklist for yourself every time you post, and make sure you set your boundaries beforehand with the brand or agency you are working with. It will help both you and the brand to have clear boundaries, and make for a better piece of content.
Disclosure tools include AddPost and CMP.LY highlighted by blogger Michael Hyatt. If you use wordpress you can leverage a plugin called AddPost to automate some of the process while also tailoring your messaging for your particular post. A new site called CMP.LY helps advertisers and bloggers easily comply with FTC guidelines. There are a ton of resources to help make it easy for you to disclose. And honesty makes for happy bloggers, community leaders, brands and readers. Good relationships, even the one the media has with its audience, are built on trust. Always.