Reading this article last week about the FTC’s looming ‘crack down’ on paid blog posts prompted me to check out the bloggers’ trade groups mentioned in the article. I find it all a bit silly that we think we need to protect blog readers from advertising that is not ‘transparent’.
If you’re reading your favorite mommy blogger and she goes on and on about a particular laundry soap, she might be getting paid to do that and she might not. Same goes for the latest and greatest book/car/financial advisor.
Who cares? Are we really that naive? I don’t think so.
But back to my point…. the trade groups.
Word of Mouth Marketing Association
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association(WOMMA) has created a simple list of ethics for marketers to follow when interacting with bloggers:
10 Principles for Ethical Contact by Marketers.
Remember: Consumers come first, honesty isn’t optional, and deception is always exposed.
- I will always be truthful and will never knowingly relay false information. I will never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me.
- I will fully disclose who I am and who I work for (my identity and affiliations) from the very first encounter when communicating with bloggers or commenting on blogs.
- I will never take action contrary to the boundaries set by bloggers. I will respect all community guidelines regarding posting messages and comments.
- I will never ask bloggers to lie for me.
- I will use extreme care when communicating with minors or blogs intended to be read by minors.
- I will not manipulate advertising or affiliate programs to impact blogger income.
- I will not use automated systems for posting comments or distributing information.
- I understand that compensating bloggers may give the appearance of a conflict of interest, and I will therefore fully disclose any and all compensation or incentives.
- I understand that if I send bloggers products for review, they are not obligated to comment on them. Bloggers can return products at their own discretion.
- If bloggers write about products I send them, I will proactively ask them to disclose the products’ source.
They have also developed a full blown manual on word of mouth marketing ethics here.
The Blog Council
The Blog Councilhas a similar list of best practices for bloggers relations (note: these go to 11):
Focus: Best practices for how businesses interact with external blogs and bloggers.
When communicating with blogs or bloggers on behalf of my company, I will:
- Disclose who I am, who I work for and any other relevant affiliations from the very first encounter.
- Proactively ask bloggers to be transparent about their relationship and communications with me.
- Always be truthful.
- Never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me.
- Never ask bloggers to write a fake endorsement or something they do not believe.
- Never use off-topic comment for self-promotional intent.
- Never take action contrary to the specific boundaries, terms and conditions, and community guidelines set by each blog.
- Not use services or technologies for mass-posting comments.
- Use extreme care when communicating with minors or blogs intended to be read by minors.
- Comply with all laws and regulations regarding disclosure of identity.
- Make it clear to our employees and agencies that these rules apply to them.
This is part of the Blog Council’s larger Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit licensed under Creative Commons and designed to be used, distributed, and modified with no restrictions other than attribution. Pretty similar, and all good stuff.
It’s easy to see why marketers are creating this type of self-regulation. They must protect their deep corporate pockets. How will bloggers differentiate themselves as the ones big business wants to do business with?