First and foremost it is critical that bloggers be aware of the FTC Guidelines for Endorsements. In 2009, the FTC established a set of guidelines for behavior and these guidelines include bloggers. Here is what bloggers need to respect:
“The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.”
This means if you, as a blogger, write on your blog about a trip, an event, or a product you received for free, you need to disclose that information. End of story. Many blogger do this simply with a short sentence at the end of the post, while others share their disclosure policy in a sidebar, or even have a page dedicated to their personal policy.
In addition to the FTC Guidelines, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has some great suggestions in their ethics page that pertain more to brands than bloggers, but can still be helpful. Whenever I work with brands doing blogger outreach I always begin the relationship by sharing WOMMA’s ethical guidelines so we start off on the same page.
But not only is it important to be aware of ethics regarding disclosure, but it’s important to establish personal ethics. I’ve been thinking a great deal about this, and here are a few of mine.
• I don’t share certain things about my child. I share a fair amount, but I have set some personal guidelines that I don’t break, however tempting it might be.
• I limit significantly what I share about my marriage, and what little I do share I reveal to my husband before I post.
• I avoid attacking people. I attack policies (political, primarily), behavior, but I try not to attack people personally. I “play the ball, not the man.” (I’m not 100% on this one, not at all, but I am working on it.)
• I don’t accept products to review from companies that have practices I abhor. No matter how much they would help me or my family.
• I don’t make promises I can’t keep. I don’t promise to attend events I can’t make, I don’t agree to write about things that I don’t have time to write about, and I don’t accept work I can’t complete. However tempting the offer might be. This doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes, but I work hard to be careful and know my limits.
What are your personal ethics? Have you spent much time considering this? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.