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There's No Such Thing as a Free Blog Post—Disclose It


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If you provide free clothes or free video games in return for blog posts from customers, do you have to disclose it? The Federal Trade Commission says yes.

That’s according to a panel of attorneys who discussed social media strategies at the International Franchise Association’s Legal Symposium in early May.

“Over time the FTC has started to crack down on this a little bit more,” said Ellen Traupman Berge of the Venable law firm in Washington, D.C. She cited a case involving the women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor, which gave women free clothes in exchange for their blog posts. “People reading the blogs would not know that the bloggers were not exactly unbiased,” Berge said..

In a similar case, Warner Bros. was told by the FTC to improve its disclosure, after giving free video games to people in exchange for their blog posts. The FTC issued warning letters to both companies, she said.

The takeaway: “If there is a material connection between your company and an endorser, disclose it. Disclosures of material connections must be clear and conspicuous,” she said, and don’t forget your franchisees. “Train your franchisees and affiliates and monitor what they’re doing on your behalf. Periodically search to make sure they’re following your instructions.”

Likewise, don’t forget about tweeters. “If there’s a material connection between your brand and the person tweeting,” disclose it, Berge said. “Even a sweepstakes entry is a thing of value that should be disclosed.”

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is staff writer at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 
Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner.
 

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