FTC and Bloggers Full Disclosure

October 6, 2009 Katja Presnal

I click to read an article in the NY Times about the FTC’s new guidelines for bloggers and recognize the shirt the blogger in the picture is wearing “I have the same one” and look down the text in the photo and realize “oh, it is me in the photo”.

I received a few interview requests yesterday about the FTC and full disclosure and spoke about it with my friends. On the same day I spent a few hours on conference calls with companies that send me a check for a work done. However, the occasions that someone sends me a check to write something in my blog are very very rare. I don’t get paid to write my own blog. This is my site and I am my own boss. I get paid when I write for someone else, or when I give my opinions or time for someone; which is called consulting.

I love what I do, which at some days like yesterday is speaking on phone all day and writing about children’s clothing that I like, and interacting with people who share the same passion in life as I do.

I feel it’s sort of funny that people come to me and ask about paid posts and my integrity, I have written close to 1000 blog posts, published 875 in this blog, and I have done around 10 paid posts at Skimbaco Lifestyle. That’s less than 1% of my posts that I have been paid to do. Because I chose to write about them – like the Red Chair Confessions; how funny was the video? And shopping at Talbot’s – yes, I got paid to write about Talbot’s and to shop there with my friend, seems like a dream job to me. Part of me wishes I would get more opportunities like that – write about things that I like and get paid for it! Part of me thinks I should never write a sponsored post anymore.

Which takes me to FTC. I have a disclosure policy, and I mention in my posts if I have gotten a product for free from the company directly or from one of their agents, like a PR agency. I am still wondering one thing. Most of the products that I find, love or recommend, I have not received a sample. I drove a Volvo and drank Starbucks coffee way before I even knew what blog was, I have been wearing Ralph Lauren clothing as long as I can remember and have been buying Hanes underwear for my family years before they ever contacted me to be part of their social media efforts.

I don’t understand that why anyone would think that if I have been in contact a company I might write differently about their product than if I had never been in contact with them?

An example. I wrote about SeaWorld in San Antonio last summer. I visited there with my family, and we paid tickets to get in. We drove from Colorado to Texas, and paid our gas, food and lodging. I wrote that our family loved SeaWorld. Earlier this year I was contacted to write one paid post about SeaWorld dolphins and I was paid a trip to SeaWorld in Orlando in May. I was not asked to blog about it, but I did (and was not paid to write about it, but if I did, I was asked to fully disclose that I got a free trip). I truly like SeaWorld, and would recommend it to families. It makes me sad to think that my opinion last summer would be more valuable than the opinion this spring.

While I think it’s great to have rules, it will seed out the bad apples, too much is too much. I’m wondering should I save every receipt of every product I buy to prove later on I bought it (if I mention it in my blog). I’m wondering should I write a list of free gifts and stuff I get and publish it – but what if some of the stuff sucks, and then someone thinks I’m endorsing it because it is in my list?

Maybe there should be a system, like banners to alert the readers every time when any product is mentioned?

Also, since the new FTC Guides affect celebrities, I suggest celebrities start wearing a button on each piece of clothing they wear out in public, and pretty much on anything they own. In fact, all this talk about money makes me think, maybe I should stop living my life to the fullest and blogging about stuff… maybe I will just start a business making different buttons for celebrities and start making some real money. When the FTC rules take effect in December, I want to be prepared and be the first celebrity disclosure button maker out there, maybe I’ll even get Tom Cruise and Oprah to endorse my buttons. Oh dammit, how they gonna endorse a disclosure button without a disclosure button?

This FTC thing is making my head spin, and yes, I read the whole 81 pages and yes I plan on continuing doing every thing as I have been doing.

,

Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live Nordic inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work.Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (26)

  1. Katja,

    You summed it up. Love those buttons. Yes, I think it is a burden for folks who have been honest bloggers, but I feel bad for the moms and dads who read advertorial and have no idea what they are reading was a paid post. There are some slick mom blogs out there taking advantage of you and me…workhorses who love to blog.

  2. Katja,
    I have the button maker….I’ll make them for ya!! You are such a riot….but wouldn’t they be fun to wear?

  3. Great post. love the buttons. This FTC ruling does make me wacky. While I agree that bloggers should have a disclosure policy, it makes no sense that movie/tv and celebrities should not have a disclosure policy as well. those entities get paid millions of dollars for endorsments and product placement. Lets face it no blogger not even dooce makes Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt money.

  4. Great great post. I hadn’t even considered the issue about the celebrities and celebrity bloggers. I don’t think they’ll be to happy about wearing those buttons but it’s definitely something to think about!

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