The Truth About Paid Product Reviews and Disclosure

Photo1by: Carol Bryant

Have you ever been asked to write a product review for a
company’s service or product? If you are a blogger or microblogger, no doubt
you either have (countless numbers of times) or you will be courted if you are
just starting out.

There are two basic tenets you must follow if you are
blogging about a product or service that you did not purchase yourself:

1 You must disclose that you received the free product;

2 You must also disclose if you were paid. You do NOT have
to disclose how much you were paid;

Disclosure is something that must be followed per FTC
guidelines. If you read the BlogPaws blog on a regular basis, interact in our
community, and/or attend a BlogPaws Conference, we stress the importance and
legality of disclosure.

Brands that pay for bloggers to engage in a program know
that disclosure is imperative and necessary. Are you aware of these other “must
do’s” with regard to being paid to work for/with a brand?

Earlier this year the FTC recently tightened online
disclosure requirements
. In response to this , FTC representative, Mary
Engle, led a session during the BlogPaws 2013 Conference.

“The revised .com disclosures guidance is intended to help
clarify when advertising disclosures do and don’t work on the small
screen.  The law hasn’t changed – if a disclosure is needed to prevent an
ad from being deceptive, then the disclosure must be clear and conspicuous, no
matter where or how the ad runs,” Engle tells BlogPaws. “But given the space
constraints of mobile advertising, we wanted to provide guidance to advertisers
on how to comply with this aspect of the law.  Our goal is one we think
your readers will share: to make sure there are no hidden catches or other
misleading omissions in online or mobile promotions.”

Fellow BlogPaws Community Member and blogger, Paris
Permenter of Dogtipper.com, attended one of our product review sessions and
wrote an exceptional piece with highlights.
Paris’ post on product review
s is worth checking out.

Slide1

Where Should You
Place Disclosures?

According to Mary Engle, “Disclosures should be placed as
close as possible to the claim they qualify.”

So don’t hide your disclosure in a location where it cannot
be seen or is hard to find.

Can You Use
Hyperlinks?

 
Slide2What If You Don’t Like the Product or it Fails Miserably?

BlogPaws works with many brands and through our Pet Bloggers
Opportunity Network
, we are able to facilitate relationships between bloggers and
brands.  Bloggers are a force with which
to be reckoned and are on the fast ascent to rock star status in the pet
industry.

If you don't like the product, let us know. It is best not to engage in product reviews if you don't believe it nor use the product to begin with. I wouldn't test kitty litter: I don't have a cat. In turn, if you test a product and it fails miserably you have a few routes to take. I always touch base with the company or the client. In this case, tell us here at BlogPaws. Be transparent and we will work with you.

Think about who reads your product reviews: Other pet
parents. I trust the reviews given by pet bloggers whom I respect, and I
especially get the warm fuzzies when product reviews are accompanied by:

  • Real pets using the product or service;
  • Photographs of the said real pets;
  • Bonus points if I can see the product in action;
  • Information on the details of the product or service, price,
    warranties, pros and cons if applicable;

When I see a disclosure statement I merely brush that off as
transparency and actually gain a higher level of respect for the blogger for
revealing the truth to me, the reader.

BlogPaws and its sponsors never pay for anything other than
an honest review with full disclosure. We’re even fans of the no-follow rule,
and our bloggers are encouraged to use it. Not sure what  a “no-follow” is? We’ve got you covered:

Have you checked out our Pet Blogger Opportunity Network? We’re
all about disclosure, honesty, and helping brands and bloggers work together. Any
questions? We’re all ears.

  • Thanks, Carol. I have to admit I bristle when folks say brands are paying for my opinion. Not so! I routinely do sponsored posts on my Lipsticking blog, and get paid for them. I write what I feel, how I feel and only recommend products I truthfully like. The brands know this, my readers know this, and it works. Consumers have been paid for their time to recommend products for hundreds of years. For the most part, their opinions are their own. I expect a few folks here and there can be ‘bought’ but reality tells me that pet bloggers, especially, do not allow themselves to recommend product they don’t have a connection with.
    The new rules from the FTC are great for keeping everyone honest. And, the no-follow rule, while confusing, is a great way to keep yourself above board. Thanks for sharing this info. Hope all our bloggers read it.

  • I hope this post makes the rounds, too, Yvonne. I think of celebrity endorsements on television to the ads on radio to the ads in magazines. With pet bloggers, we are putting the products to the test and revealing results for our readers. We put our reputations on the line, and coupled with the FTC requirements, we are being straightforward and transparent. For me, as a pet parent, I get my advice from other pet parents, with pet bloggers high atop that list.

  • Good post! So if I am just writing a review that I was not asked to write about a product I purchased, do I need no follow code? Second, there is a no follow plug in for WP blogs, so when you put the link in you can check open in new window and then below that the apply no follow code. For those like me that have a bit of an html fear, it is super easy.

  • Reviews are so important to companies now, they should just work harder to get genuine good reviews rather than paid good reviews!

  • Thanks, Emma!