Disclosure Always

The marketer’s curse is this: whenever I rave about something, the very next question I get (without fail) is whether such and such is a client. It’s reasonable that people ask. In this world where so few people disclose their relationships, I find myself wondering sometimes, myself (er, not about me, but others).

Let me be really clear about my own self and my own business standards. I disclose everything I imagine to be materially relevant to things I write about. My disclosure page is on my about page, down near the bottom 1/2. If it’s not on there, you can always ask, but I am fairly quick to disclose in-post and even in-tweet when I’m talking about something that might afford me gain.

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission is starting to heat up their effort to crack down on bloggers who violate disclosure guidelines. It’s nothing terrifying, but it’s out there. Here’s a recent post from a panel at BlogHer that gives decent enough guidelines. I’ll recommend mine at the bottom of the post.

I’ve written about FTC disclosure before, by the way.

One Way to Provide Ample Disclosure

  • Update any specific disclosures on your site’s about page.
  • For any sponsored post (should you have one), be clear to add “sponsored post” to the TITLE of the post.
  • For sponsored posts, make the first paragraph and the last paragraph contain a sentence or two showing that it’s a sponsored post.
  • For tweets about an affiliate link, mention that directly after the link.
  • For tweets about a client, mention that directly after the link.
  • For tweets about a sponsored post, mention that after the link.

That seems reasonable, and not entirely unwieldy.

Questions?

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  • http://www.sitesketch101.com Nicholas Z. Cardot

    I’m on board with you. I know that when the FTC announced the new rules a while back that a lot of people were up in arms about it but the truth is that these are the basics of conducting business ethically online. I also find it to be true that people genuinely are willing to follow and support the person who is willing to put it out there honestly rather than the person who they to be ‘sneaking’ their affiliates onto them.

  • http://twitter.com/psjoneswrites P.S. Jones

    I get the same thing about certain things that I am a really big fan of. I can’t help but gush sometimes when I really like something. But as Nicholas said, these are just common sense netiquette rules.

  • http://twitter.com/BTRIPP Brendan Tripp

    Fortunately, I tend to blither on in my book reviews anyway about where I got the book in question (as I do shop a lot of dollar stores, used book stores, etc.), so mentioning that a book came as a review copy from a publisher isn’t a stretch, although I do tend to make some snarky comment about the FTC just so they know I’m given them notice!

  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    Chris,

    If you RT anything from your client not necessarily disclosing an opinion. Do we need to disclose it?

  • AmyTobin

    Everytime I consider going back to school for a marketing degree (don’t worry, I have enough other useless MAs to fill a resume), I read something in your blog, or on Third Tribe Marketing, or from someone I’ve learned about from you and I realize what an old mentor told me “You don’t need an MBA – you’re earning it everyday.” You just make the path a little clearer. Much appreciated.

  • http://www.kellylawblog.com Aaronklaw

    As a lawyer, I frequently get questions about the FTC “guidelines” concerning the disclosure of certain information. Notice I said guidelines, they are not rules. They are, however, an indication of where the rules will end up. A lot of people are up in arms about these guidelines, understandably so. I believe that in the end we won’t see the enforcement against the individuals so much as against the big advertiser/affiliate marketer. Great article though Chris.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I think so.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Precisely so. Do what needs doing. It’s more fun.

  • http://twitter.com/AronSora Daniel Sims

    I have an Amazon affiliates ad on my blog (It has 10 book about my blog’s topic). I disclose book reviews, but do I need to say under my ad that I’m an affiliate. I didn’t do it before because it looked awkward, but I’ll put it under my ad anyway.

  • Anonymous

    i think so.zf

  • http://www.dubai-mortgages.com/abu-dhabi-finance-tamouh-investment-become-partners/ cathy @ Dubai Mortgages

    People must disclose themselves but mostly people ignore “About Me” page, just because they consider it unimportant. If the legislation will be made about disclosing the identity then several or all must do it.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    I maintain a blanket disclosure: I’m going to try to make money off you any way I can. It’s just easier that way. Assume everything I do is for my benefit, and you’ll never be disappointed.

    http://www.christopherspenn.com/disclosures/

    • http://www.constructionmarketinguk.co.uk Peter L Masters MCIM

      I love the honesty! Nice one Christopher!

    • http://www.constructionmarketinguk.co.uk Peter L Masters MCIM

      I love the honesty! Nice one Christopher!

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  • http://twitter.com/AdrianMelrose Adrian Melrose

    Chris, thanks for ‘campaigning’ on this issue. Word of Mouth is such a compelling reason to use online social networks but overtime people are using their influence to promote without disclosure and this erodes trust. Following your guidelines will help everyone preserve the value we get out of the extended networks in which we now work and live. Irritated by being misled by people I used to trust, I have previously blogged about this issue and I suggest we examine our own motivations before promoting (or bashing) something in a Tweet or blogpost. If there is a chance we’ve confused our audience about or motivation, it’s our responsibility to deal with it there and then, making an appropriate disclosure.

    I am a great believe in one’s “About Page” being *the* place to make material disclosures but shouldn’t be used as a get out of jail card as I don’t think it takes much to ensure there’s clarity in a Tweet where, for instance, your promotion is linked to a client or friend’s business.

  • http://www.straightalk.biz/designs straightalk

    This is very Important, I wish We all could do the same I have started to change how I post to my attention it has changed my stats greatly for the better.

    It’s like NOW my friends know which tweets to click on because my monetized links have been getting way more clicks.. Interesting right

    Norman Flecha
    STRAIGHT TALK

  • http://www.justinparks.com Justin Parks

    Not really affected by any guidelines or regulations here in Europe (yet) but are covered by some common sense and decency.

    Then again, sometimes its nobody else’s businesses how or why you decide to mention, RT or promote something and what relationship is in place with it. At least, that’s how more privacy orientated people I know view it

    I guess i will just assume that anything mentioned about a product or service that costs money will be done in some sort of affiliation and then if I click it or move forward then I do so because I trust the referral. Otherwise… why would I click it in the first place or even be there reading it.

    Strange subject and gonna be fun watching how this develops.

  • http://socialmediafly.wordpress.com/ Anne Wiltshire

    So I’m curious. I have been blogging about my experience learning the ins and outs of social media being very careful NOT to mention any companies that I work with by name or providing links exactly because I don’t want to be seen as talking about them for personal gain. So far it’s all about what I’m learning to help people in the same boat not promoting anyone. Is this bad practice in light of your comments?

  • Nicecoachhandbags

    It’s like NOW my friends know which tweets to click on because my monetized links have been getting way more clicks.. Interesting right

  • http://twitter.com/edeckers Erik Deckers

    In the two years that I’ve read your stuff, I’ve never had reason to question whether you got something for free or were paid by someone to write a post. Why? Because you’re as transparent as a piece of new glass when it comes to that. You always say if you buy something or if someone gives you something. This means that if you’re paid to pimp something, I know you’re going to talk only about the things you believe in. But it also means that if you don’t get paid for something, then it’s a product that truly impressed you, and it’s something worth considering. (That’s why I keep bugging my wife for an Eyefi card.)

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    That’s the goal, Erik.

    Oh, and look for a new post about the Eye-Fi shortly. I’ve got broadband in my new office and am throwing an Airport Express on it. Will shoot Eye-Fi from my video camera once I figure that out.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I think that’s a shame, Anne. These companies get the chance to have your voice talking about why you chose them as clients in the first place, and that’s just as useful.

    I don’t talk *very* much about my clients, but when I can do my part to brag on companies I work with that I think are doing great things… I do it. : )

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  • http://www.chesterfieldcouture.com Leather Sofas

    I don’t want to be seen as talking about them for personal gain. So far it’s all about what I’m learning to help people in the same boat not promoting anyone. Is this bad practice in light of your comments?

  • http://www.chesterfieldcouture.com Leather Sofas

    I don’t want to be seen as talking about them for personal gain. So far it’s all about what I’m learning to help people in the same boat not promoting anyone. Is this bad practice in light of your comments?

  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    Knowing how to close is a good characteristics of a business man.

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    The latest version of the .NET framework, 4.0 was released on March, 2010, and comes with powerful new features, such as the 2010 version of Visual Studio and new functionalities regarding the Microsoft Ajax Library.

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