7 Disclosure Tips for Content Publishers
(Note: All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only by a non-attorney. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.)
Partnering with an advertiser to created sponsored content can be a fantastic opportunity for a content publisher, but the effort extends beyond creating excellent content with a partner or product in mind. Successful content publishers know how to properly use disclosures to remain FTC compliant and keep their readers informed of what their content is - and why it should be trusted.
Read on to learn seven different disclosure strategies to stay FTC complaint below!
1. Keep it Simple
Don’t get overly complicated with your disclosures. Simply stating something like “advertiser [x] gave me this product to try” is effective in letting the audience know the content is sponsored and, in no uncertain terms, that your post was paid for. It’s direct, to the point, and easily understood.
2. Don’t Abbreviate
The idea of shortening a disclosure (turning “sponsored” into “sp” for example) might seem appealing, but don’t let this character-saving idea deceive you – abbreviating a disclosure is almost like not having one at all. At best it would take the average follower a few moments to decipher what “sp” meant, but at worst (and far more likely) it would be confusing followed by dismissed.
3. Start Early
Why waste the time letting your followers know that your content is sponsored? Putting the disclosure too far down the post can feel like deception to your visitors and harm your reputation. Not only are you lowering the chance they’ll even see the disclosure (thereby risking your post as seeming misleading) but it also likely won’t make much of a difference to them. On top of that, all the ‘fake news’ trends going around means you’ll need to be more transparent than ever before with your visitors. Social media posts that are short tend not to be as much of an issue, but what’s the harm in mentioning at the beginning of a blog post and having full disclosure terms at the end? There is none – it’s not distracting, and it’s honest and upfront. Try to disclose early, and follow up at the end if needed. Speaking of...
4. It’s Okay to Split it Up
Disclosures can be long and cumbersome, especially on blog posts. You don’t want to eat up the real estate normally left to introduce the reader to the topic, as well as miss out on some SEO opportunities, but you still need the disclosure. What do you do? Why not mention that the content is sponsored, and that there’s a full disclosure at the bottom of the post. Or, if you’re using a platform like Instagram or Pinterest, place the disclosure language in the image copy itself. A final option is if you have a dedicated disclosure page, link that page in the disclosure language.
5. Don’t Hide in Fear
80% of influencers have said they haven’t received any negative feedback over a sponsored post. The fact of the matter is most people understand that this is how some content publishers (you) make money, and they’re perfectly okay with that. Don’t be afraid to let your audience know that the blog post or video is a sponsored post – so long as you maintain your honesty and level of quality, most of your followers will just appreciate you being upfront with them and move on to the content.
6. Don’t Imply Sponsored Content
When you see a piece of content that says “presented by” what do you think? Do you think the content is sponsored, is written by the brand, or written by the content publisher with the brand in mind? The fact that any one of these is applicable means the disclosure is ineffective. That’s because the idea that it’s “by” a brand could mean any number of things. According to AdExchanger, 74% of publishers use “sponsored” as a label and 11% use “promoted,” but the FTC only approves “sponsored content” and NOT “sponsored by” or “promoted.” Using this type of language (presented, promoted, brought to you by) may seem like a nice way to pretty up an otherwise blunt disclosure, but don’t fall for that – it’s ineffective, and so is your disclosure.
7. When in Doubt, Aim for Clarity
If you’re not sure if your disclosure is clear, in the right spot, or direct, then ask yourself ‘would anybody from anywhere understand that this is a sponsored post?’ and ‘could this mislead a significant minority of reasonable consumers?’ If you hesitate to answer ‘yes’ then maybe you should revisit what you’re doing, and if you’re doing it properly. Always make clarity about your sponsored content the priority.