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Posted on 10.29.2009

New FTC Regulations: Are You Following the Rules?

New FTC Regulations Are You Following The RuleWhether you work for a public relations firm or handle the marketing for your own business, it’s wise to keep up with the latest regulations regarding advertising. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released new guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials that everyone in our business needs to be aware of. The new regulations focus primarily on bloggers and testimonial advertising. Blogging is a highly effective marketing tool and if you follow our blog, you know I recently wrote an entry about the effectiveness of testimonials. So, when these new FTC guidelines were released my ears perked up.

You probably don’t have time to read all 81 pages of the guide; fortunately the Public Relations Society of American (PRSA) summed it up in the following key points:

• Bloggers who receive cash or in-kind payment (including free products or services for review) are deemed endorsers and so must disclose material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

• Any firm that engages bloggers by paying them outright to create or influence editorial content or by supplying goods or services to them at no cost may be liable if the blogger does not disclose the relationship.

• Advertisements or promotions that feature a consumer who conveys his or her experience with a product or service as "typical" should clearly disclose what results consumers can generally expect or specify how the results were unique to the individual circumstances. (This is an important part of the new regs; in essence, you have to convey what the typical outcome or result of using the product or service would be.)

• If research is cited in an advertisement or promotion, any sponsorship of the research by the client or the marketer should be clearly disclosed.

• Celebrities who make endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media, should disclose any relationship with the advertiser or marketer.

Over the past few weeks there have been several great articles that discuss the new regulations from a legal as well as a business perspective. Personally, while it might be a challenge to artfully craft messages and testimonials that are going to attract attention, I think these rules make a good attempt at protecting consumers. As professional communicators we must remember to be honest, ethical and true to our message.

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