PR, marketing and advertising professionals are watching closely new proposed guidelines from the FTC that would make both companies and bloggers liable for any “false claims,” or if the blogger failed to disclose the nature of the relationship with a company or agency behind a post. The FTC has caught on to the fact that many bloggers are being paid – either in free products/services or cash – to plug those products or services on their site.
Edelman Chicago’s senior VP for consumer brands and social media, Danielle Wiley recently spoke with Advertising Age about this topic, among others. When it comes to paying bloggers, Wiley stated, “We’ve reached out to them [bloggers] with a product, and asked them to review it; they’ve come back to us and offered to do a positive review in return for pay. We don’t do that. We said no.”
That’s not stopping several high profile bloggers from attending and speaking at the upcoming IZEAFest this fall, the first annual conference for IZEA, formerly called Pay Per Post, which pays bloggers to mention and review products and services of their clients. Among the speakers include Ford social media lead Scott Monty, President of New Marketing Labs Chris Brogan and David Binkowski, SVP, Word of Mouth Marketing at Manning, Selvage & Lee.
When asked about his relationship with IZEA, Binkowski told PRNewser, “I personally don’t work for IZEA…and am going to be speaking about how Izea bloggers can work better with marketers and promote themselves while staying within the guidelines of the FTC.”
He also told us that at MS&L, “we do not pay for blog posts unless the bloggers have been hired to write on behalf of a client’s blog. Our firm’s roots are in earned media and the online extension of our practice is no different.” Binkowski did say in regards to Izea’s policies, “my personal position is that provided there is disclosure there is no issue.”
We agree with Binkowski’s take. If the blogger adheres to proper disclosure, there is no issue, from the FTC perspective. However, bloggers and companies like IZEA will have to be extra careful with disclosure if the new guidelines are approved. Things like IZEA blogger Julia Allison‘s disclosure slip up last month get much more serious. Also, the bigger issue may be how the disclosure changes that blogger’s long term credibility and relationship with readers, if at all.