As requested, here is a quick summary of the Hayley Constantine talk from the #Blognix14 blogging conference held on Saturday 14th June 2014.
Disclosure Is Not A Dirty Word by Hayley Constantine of Ceriselle and Bonjour Blogger
A little background on blogging in the UK – around 2008/2009, brands started to reach out to blogs for a new way of marketing their products. Bloggers and brands have stumbled through finding what the most effective way of working is, without much guidance. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) have started to look at disclosure a little, starting with their post from last November, but they seem reluctant to make any actual sort of guidance. (I spoke to them in November, which you can read about here.
What is disclosure?
Disclosure is when you make it clear and obvious the background behind a product, activity or decision. It’s important for your readers because it allows them to make the decision on whether they can trust your opinion and so they don’t feel misled.
For example, I’ve seen blog posts where it was all fine and interesting until it got to a part where it said to “tell us in a change of status” – you’re left wondering who has been talking to you, and what the real intention is!
The ASA is a self-regulatory organisation who keep an eye on the advertising industry in the UK. They’re a nonstatutory organisation which means they can’t actually prosecute people, but if they felt there was a severe breach of their guidelines, then they can pass the details on to the CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) who can then talk to bodies like OFCOM and Trading Standards (Here’s what can happen if the ASA wants to bring a sanction against you ).
The ASA’s stance is that if a payment is received by a blogger, then it needs to be clearly disclosed to the reader. The actual phrasing used is:
“Put simply, a blogger who is given money to promote a product or service has to ensure readers are aware they’re being advertised to”
In layman’s terms, if the brand specifically asks for certain wording and links used, then you should be disclosing that you have received payment.
Search engines (which I’ll look specifically at Google) aren’t interested whether you disclose or not to your readers, but they do want you to use a nofollow link. This is a way to tell the search engine that this is not a natural link – you have not just decided to pop in this link to the brand’s website, you have received an incentive to do so.
A growing trend is the amount of campaigns taking place on social media (specifically Twitter and Instagram). There is currently no requirement by either the ASA or Google to disclose these.
Disclosing is a good thing because:
- It allows your readers to make a judgement on your opinions
- It tells brands and PR people that you understand the rules and that you want to play by them
- There’s a legal requirement – although the ASA probably wouldn’t take severe action against a blogger for not disclosing a sponsored post, there is the possibility, and no one wants to be the test case!
A disclosure statement in a blog post must be understandable to someone who doesn’t understand the different codewords that bloggers use and are encouraged to use by some brands.
“In collaboration with”, “In association with” – if you said to your Nana that phrase, would she know you received something in return for writing the post?
You can write a full disclosure statement on a separate page to explicitly say what you do and don’t do – you can find out how to create one of those here.
Something that I brought up on Bonjour, Blogger! this year was the idea of responsible disclosure. There is a growing trend for blogs to post about gambling sites, which is fine if you and the majority of your readers are happy for that, but perhaps we should be considering who is reading the post, and how this will affect them. Traditional advertising requires more obvious disclosure (e.g. Drink Aware links) so why shouldn’t blogging?
Read more: Full text of the Blognix presentation