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Posted on 09.30.2010

Endorsing Your Clients Without Disclosure Is Risky Business

Both PR firms and ad agencies have to be especially careful to fully disclose any association they have with a client when it comes to endorsing or even speaking favorably about the client or its products. It’s quite simple, really. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t act like an unbiased consumer when you are speaking favorably about a client’s product or service; because you are not. If you are getting paid in any form, new regulations require that you clearly and prominently state your relationship to the client. The regulation put into effect last year by the FTC prompted our firm to have several educational sessions, starting with me attending an excellent (albeit scary) presentation by an attorney who specializes in ad agencies.  His stories made my hair stand on end…and I promptly shared them with our staff. Then yesterday I read Michael Lasky’s PR Week article about a small PR firm recently busted by the FTC, with which it had to sign a consent decree agreeing to refrain from making any endorsements of their clients without acknowledging their relationship. What is particularly interesting to me is that the PR firm had made the endorsements prior to December 2009 when the FTC issued their Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials. For a variety of reasons, we are abundantly careful to make all necessary disclosures in our blogs, tweets and other consumer-generated media – most notably, because it is the right thing to do. However, the FTC action reminds me that we all may need periodic refresher courses on this subject. Let us know of any great (or horrifying) case studies you may come across.

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