As most of us know, starting today, the blogosphere will be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which requires bloggers to disclose free products or payments they have received from companies they are mentioning in their reviews or blog posts. If they fail to do so, the fine could be up to $11,000. From mommy bloggers to tech bloggers, everybody will have to disclose, disclose, and disclose. It’s fair after all, but I expect some chaos in the beginning, as people are trying to figure out what and how to disclose. If some think that it doesn’t apply to them, think more, because it does. The best way to find an answer is to talk to an attorney.
The reaction the readers will have is certainly interesting to watch. Will they respect these bloggers more or will they stop reading some blogs, thinking that, because they received something in return, the bloggers may not portray the product or service accurately? In the end, knowing the relationship of the writer with the respective company/person helps readers make an informed decision. For us, as a PR agency, it’s easy to comply. All our current client names are on our website. Some agencies do not post them while others have a list of current and past clients – all together – making it impossible to know which ones are still paying for their services. At Silicon Valley PR, our Portfolio page has two separate categories of current and past clients. Knowing that we can’t sign up two competitors at the same time, this page shows prospective clients what companies we are currently working with, so they can make an informed decision when contacting us. Also, when we post something on our blog about a product or a company, it’s clear if they are or are not a client.
This is a new era for both PR and the media, a challenging, but a great time to be on either side. As in any business, the strong ones will find a way to make things work and keep their (brand) name untainted. For more information about these new regulations, go to the FTC site at http://bit.ly/9KMWI.