Last month I published The FTC Update – In Plain English, but even with that in-depth post I still get questions about the FTC guides on a daily basis. I thought we'd take a moment to clear a few things up, and put your mind at ease a bit.
There's a lot of hype surrounding this topic, some alarmist type talk - things like "10's of thousands of dollars in fines" or "expect letters from the FTC starting Dec 1st" or "The FTC will freeze all of your accounts while they investigate claims".
Some of it is a little over the top (in my opinion). Most of this is coming from people who have new products they are promoting to help you become 'FTC Compliant'...
The FTC has gone out of their way to address the blogging community. They have reached out to address our concerns through videos, interviews, Q&A series and detailed examples. I'll share those with you here as well...
What's new about the Endorsement Guides?
Why did the FTC update the Endorsement Guides?
What do the Endorsement Guides mean for bloggers?
How do bloggers follow the Endorsement Guides?
Is the FTC planning to sue bloggers?
Where to go for more information...
One of the biggest questions I hear is: Where should I put the disclosure? Do I need to make a statement beside every single link?
As for where disclosure about relationships should go, whether that be affiliates or sponsored mentions, Fast Company interviewed Richard Cleland - the assistant director of the division of advertising at the FTC, in a post titled FTC Responds to Blogger Fears: "That $11,000 Fine Is Not True", and he said:
"Disclosures can be made in different ways, whether you make it outside of the text but in proximity to blog, or incorporate it into the blog discussion itself–those are the issues that bloggers will have discretion about.”
He went on to clarify that the government is not out to slap 5-figure fines on violating bloggers, but rather that they may receive a warning and an opportunity to comply. He states there will be no monetary penalty on the first violation.
To quote Mary Engle of the FTC:
"We just want to bring some transparency to the process."
I've done a sponsored blog post (link) and a product review (link) in the last month, both of which stand as good examples of simple compliance. I qualified my atypical results in the product review, and I stated right in the sponsored post that it was an advertisement and opened the floor for discussion on the service.
When doing book reviews, I simply need to disclose if I received a press copy. If I bought the book myself at a local book store or on Amazon.com, I can shout my opinion from my blog all I like - without any sort of statement.
But there's nothing wrong with writing a blog post about a press copy of a book you receive in the mail, or a free product a company sends you, as long as you mention that in your blog post or review.
I highly recommend you go back and read my original FTC post and the links included, which will give you facts and examples - and real answers.
I hope this helps calm some of the alarm and fear over the new FTC guides.
p.s. Another common concern is the use of endorsements and testimonials, and specifically "atypical results". I'll address that in my next post, along with a creative new idea you'll love! You can subscribe below to get notification by email: