Keeping it Legal: Disclosures

Hi, friends!  This month, I want to talk about some important legal issues regarding your blog.  As your blog grows, you will get lots of opportunities for sponsored posts and advertisements, and it’s important to make sure you’re following FTC guidelines and the law if and when you accept those opportunities.

Keeping it Legal

Disclaimer: Before we dive in, let me just say once and for all that I am not a lawyer.  I’m a blogger, a dancer, a teacher, a mama, an artist…but I’m no lawyer, so this is not meant to replace professional legal advice.  In other words, if you somehow get yourself in trouble {which you shouldn’t if you follow these suggestions}, no suing me!  All you’d get is a Silhouette Cameo and a huge mess of craft supplies anyway. ;)

Today, we’re going to talk about disclosures in sponsored posts.  Next month, we’re going to look at No-Follow Links, which is another important topic along the same lines, so be sure to come back for that!

DISCLOSURES

What is a disclosure?
A disclosure is a statement that clearly tells your readers you were compensated by a company for some part of your blog post. 

Why do we disclose?
Providing full disclosure lets our readers know that we were paid to use or promote a particular product.  This keeps bloggers and companies from taking advantage of readers.  As you know, our reader communities trust us and really do look to us for recommendations about certain types of products.  If we use a particular kind of paint or a certain brand of vinyl or a favorite brand of ingredient because we honestly love it and think it’s the best, that can definitely influence our followers to try out those things as well…which is why companies are realizing it’s worthwhile to use bloggers as a form of advertising.  But it’s only ethical to let readers know when we’re just speaking about something we love versus speaking about something we were compensated to share.  My completely unsolicited and un-compensated {I tried, they said no} tirades about how much I love Starbucks have a different effect on my readers than when I tell them that a company paid me to try Seattle’s Best Coffee and it was pretty good.

 

bandw5

When do we disclose?
Anytime we have received compensation from a company.  The thing to keep in mind here that compensation does not solely equal money.  Compensation can also come in the form of free product, store credit, ad space etc.  Anytime a company gives you something that’s of value, whether monetary or not, it needs to be disclosed if you are advertising for that company in your post.

Sometimes questions come up if the post you’re writing isn’t specifically sponsored by a company but you’re using free product.  For example, say I did a campaign with Mod Podge and got a whole slew of free crafting goodies to use to create a holiday project.  I create it, I post about it, I disclose, I’m done.  But say I make another project a few months later and I happen to use some of those free supplies.  What do I do?  Do I have to disclose it?  Basically, in this situation, the choice is yours.  You can use the product and not mention it by brand name or link to it, which requires no disclosure.  {ie: “Cover your project with a layer of decoupage formula to seal it.”}  Or, you can choose to mention the brand by name and add a link, which does require you to disclose. {ie: “Cover your project with a layer of Mod Podge Gloss to seal it.”}  It’s up to you which option you choose in any given post; sometimes you may just want to focus on your project, while other times you may want to use the opportunity to further build your relationship with a brand by mentioning them and then sharing your project on their social media.

Where do we disclose?
The most recent FTC {Federal Trade Commission} guidelines state that your disclosure has to be clear and conspicuous and come before any links to the company’s site.  The safest way to do that is by placing a disclosure statement at the very top of your post.  However, you can also work it in more organically if you like, as long as you make sure you mention the compensation prior to linking to a company.

For example, if I’m making a project using some DecoArt paint that I got for free, I could include that in one of these ways:

“For this project, I was provided with free gloss enamels from DecoArt.  I used red, green, and blue.”
“Materials: gloss enamels {mine were provided free by DecoArt}”

But I couldn’t do it this way:

“I used DecoArt gloss enamels that I got for free.”

The idea is that the FTC wants to make sure readers know they’re clicking on a sponsored link.  See how in the third example, a reader could click on the DecoArt link before having read the part about them providing me the materials for free?  The FTC considers that deceptive because the reader clicked before being made aware of the relationship between me and the company.  Make sense?

How do we disclose?
The easiest possible way to do this is by including a statement like this one at the very top of your sponsored post.

“Thanks to {company name} for sponsoring today’s post.  I was compensated with payment and/or free product, but all opinions are 100% my own.”

Oftentimes if you’re working with a “middle man” company that goes between you and the brand, like Social Fabric, Social Spark, Blueprint Social, Glam Media, Pollinate, Clever Girls, Bloggy Moms, etc., they will provide you with an already worded disclosure they want you to use, so you can simply copy and paste it to the top of your post.

Another option is to create a sponsored post graphic like this one and insert it at the top of any sponsored content:

sponsoredpost3

Finally, you can choose to go the organic route as I mentioned above by working your disclosure into the natural text of your post.  This is often the way I do it if I just happen to use some free craft supplies I got from someone and want to promote them a little, like I mentioned earlier with the Mod Podge example, but the post isn’t specifically commissioned by anyone.

ie: “Our friends at Buttons Galore sent us a whole bag of free buttons to play with, so we used those in this project.”  

Remember, though, that the link has to come after the disclosure, so notice that I didn’t hyperlink “Buttons Galore” because it came before the mention of free.

The other thing to note is that the FTC requires your disclosure to be clear and conspicuous, which means it has to be at least the same size text as your other content…no fine print!

Clear as mud?  Good.  I hope this answers some of the questions you might have about disclosure rules.  Next month, we’ll be talking about why those company links must be no-follow, what that means, and how to do it!  See you then!

Hugs & Glitter,

siggy

PS. If you’re looking for some fun holiday inspiration, I’d love for you to stop by One Artsy Mama and see what Little Crafter and I have been up to, like his DIY Ugly Sweater, the adorable gift he made his teacher, and my Starbucks felt ornaments!  Hope to see you there!

christmascollage

About Amy Latta

Amy Latta is the author of One Artsy Mama, where she shares a variety of project types including home decor, kids' crafts, sewing, jewelry, and more. In addition to posting on her own blog, Amy writes for several other sites and has published an e-book. She also keeps busy by running a Blog Mentoring Program designed to help others achieve their blogging goals. She is happiest when creating something and enjoys making all kinds of projects with her 5 year old "Little Crafter." When not on the dance floor or crafting, you can probably find her at Starbucks.

Comments

  1. I LOVE your posts Amy! I need to be better at disclosures- thanks for the reminder!

    1
  2. I read this post about a week ago and stumbled on the blog for another reason today, so I just wanted to say thanks for the tips!

    2
  3. Thank you, Amy, for this post. As a newbie blogger, it helped clarify some things for me!

    3

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