Disclosures and FTC Guidelines for Mom Bloggers - dummies

Disclosures and FTC Guidelines for Mom Bloggers

By Wendy Piersall, Heather B. Armstrong

Now the law requires you to disclose any material relationships that you have with brands or advertisers when you write a review or recommend something to your readers. The material relationships you must disclose are the same as sponsored content criteria:

  • When you receive a product/service for free and write a review, testimonial, or endorsement about it.

  • When you receive any other form of compensation in exchange for writing a review, testimonial, or endorsement about it.

  • When you endorse an advertiser or client outside of the context of your blog, as when you engage in social media conversations.

  • When you use an affiliate link in conjunction with a review or recommendation.

In these circumstances, the FTC specifically states that consumers must be able to see the disclosure when they are viewing the endorsement. So you need to provide your disclosure within your actual blog post — putting a blanket disclosure on a separate page is not adequate.

So how do you write an FTC-compliant disclosure? It’s simple — just tell it like it is. Here are some examples:

  • When you receive a free product to review, include a disclosure like the following example:

    “Home Depot provided me with some of the materials I used in this bathroom remodel. I bought the rest of the materials from them with my own money. The opinions I shared about using these materials are my own, and Home Depot did not tell me what to say or how to say it.”

  • When you receive other compensation and you write a review, include a disclosure similar to the following example:

    “Disney provided my travel expenses for the trip I just wrote about, and did not provide any additional compensation. They did not require that I write this blog post, nor did they request it. I have written my honest opinion about how much I loved this vacation, and would have been willing to pay for it out of my own pocket.”

  • When you mention a sponsor on Facebook, include a disclosure such as this example:

    “My blog sponsor Weight Watchers sent me some of those meal bars and they were awesome. I wish they would send me more!”

  • When you use an affiliate link in a review, include a disclosure like the following example:

    “If you decide to make a purchase through my link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free, so thank you!”

Technically, the FTC guidelines do not apply to content that is not considered a review, recommendation, or endorsement. This can be a gray area for bloggers, especially if you simply mention a product or brand you are working with in a blog post or online conversation.

Sometimes it would be socially awkward to suddenly throw an FTC disclosure statement into a conversation among friends. Any positive mention of a brand by an influential blogger could be seen as an endorsement, but that wouldn’t necessarily fall under these FTC guidelines.

In these circumstances, you must use your best judgment. Know that it is better to over-disclose rather than under-disclose. Several bloggers have added a short disclosure statement to their Facebook or Twitter profiles to ensure that all their conversations are compliant.

In cases when your working relationship with the brand is clear to the average person, there is no need to provide an additional disclosure. If it isn’t clear, you can preface your statement with a simple, “My client XXX . . .” which leaves no doubt about your working relationship.