Here’s a BlogWell presentation by GasPedal CEO Andy Sernovitz that recaps the latest FTC regulations on disclosure and social media. He teaches Word of Mouth Marketing at Northwestern, taught Entrepreneurship at the Wharton School of Business, ran a business incubator, and has started half a dozen companies. GasPedal is his consulting company, where he advises great brands like TiVo, Dell, Ralph Lauren, Sprint, and Kimberly-Clark on best practices.
Sernovitz covers the 10 magic words of proper online disclosure, his specific steps for keeping your brand safe under the latest FTC regulations, and his personal tips for staying ethical and legal. He always puts ethics and disclosure front and center when he speaks on this topic: “The number one issue around ethics comes down to disclosure — being honest about your true identity.” Disclosure is essential and easy but requires education: “You don’t tack on a disclosure statement later, you start with that. You start with ethics and that’s how you lead.” It’s not only the right thing to do, but “it’s essential as a way to stay out of trouble. Almost every social media scandal involving brands boils down to a lack of disclosure. The blogosphere expects to know your motivations.”
- This isn’t a debate among experts, it’s the law. The rules are clear, and the FTC will be cracking down. If you recruit people to blog about you, you’re responsible for the content.
- Everything begins with ethics. Ethics is the foundation of a social media program. It’s not what you add later; it’s what everything else is built on.
- Your biggest risk is a failure to properly train your team. Most companies don’t set out to launch a stealth marketing campaign. The scandals happen again and again from well-meaning employees who just don’t know it’s wrong.
- The “10 magic words” for employees venturing onto the social Web: “I work for X, and this is my personal opinion.” That disclaimer goes a long way in helping to separate official company policy from an employee’s personal views.
- Grab a copy of the Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit below. You could use it as the basis for a full-blown policy that comes out of corporate communications, make it part of your company’s employee handbook, or use it as a set of informal guidelines for your department or team.
Watch the presentation and follow along with the slides below:
The Social Media Business Council, of which Sernovitz is CEO, has created a Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit — a handy and essential resource for any company involved in social media. This is not an imperious one-size-fits-all list of must-dos — “we’re not a standards body or trade association,” as Sernovitz says. Instead, it’s an open source toolkit to help you build your social media policy. “Adapt it to your company, teach your team, improve, and share,” he adds.
Download the 10-page tookit as a single document (Word docx) or view each section individually online:
- How to use
- Creative Commons License
- Checklist 1: Disclosure of Identity
- Checklist 2: Personal/Unofficial Blogging and Outreach
- Checklist 3: Blogger Relations
- Checklist 4: Compensation and Incentives
- Checklist 5: Agency and Contractor Disclosure
- Checklist 6: Creative Flexibility
What steps has your company or organization taken to embrace disclosure?