Doing An FTC Disclosure On Your Website
Ever gotten something for free in return for writing about it? Maybe a company you work with doesn’t charge you because you help spread the good word about them in social media? Heck, do you ever get paid to write about, video or share your thoughts and impressions of products or services from companies? These things may need FTC disclosure, but don’t worry, that may be a good thing for your site.
In all those cases you are required by law to disclose your relationship with the firm. In the United States, it’s the Federal Trade Commission that enforces these consumer protection measures, but almost every country around the world has a similar requirement. Without it, you can only imagine the fake testimonials, bogus reviews, and laudatory write-ups companies could obtain with even the smallest investment.
In the text below, I’ll show you how to do FTC disclosures on your site (legally and ethically) and show you how to do this so that it adds value to your site. Ultimately, this can be a good thing and I’ll show you why.
The science behind product disclosures
Amazon knows all about it: in the last few months the company has finally responded to a longtime practice by overseas manufacturers to offer free or highly discounted products to customers in return for Amazon reviews. Now theoretically the reviewer could have left a negative review if justified, but these companies well know what Dr. Robert Cialdini calls the Principle of Reciprocity. It states that if someone gives you something for free, you’re now more inclined to be positive and enthusiastic towards it.
Actually, that’s also why back in the day cult members would pin a tiny flower to an airport traveler’s lapel before asking for a modest donation to their organization. It worked. And it still works.
Which is all the more reason why disclosure is so darn important. It’s important legally, and I highly encourage you to read up on the FTC disclosure laws, but it’s just as important professionally: clear and straightforward disclosures build trust and that’s critically important for the success of any online venture, whether a commerce store or an informational website.
Building trust through product or service disclosures
This blog had an excellent article on sharing content ethically a few weeks ago. An FTC disclosure or product review notice should be approached in a similar fashion.
Let’s talk further about that, because there’s very little that’s more important to your online success than building trust with your customers. I like to talk about what I call transactional friction. The friction can come from your design, the type of content you produce or product you sell, and more importantly, how much trust you engender when someone visits your site.
And the good news is that you don’t have to hire a lawyer or copy and paste a half-dozen paragraphs to cover your obligation or model best practices. Instead, you can use the Golden Rule to know what to say: disclosure exactly what you would want someone else to disclose about their relationship with a company if you went to their site.
Sometimes that can be as easy as having an opening paragraph that says “When Ezoic offered to pay for my dinner at a trendy dining establishment in uptown Manhattan…” or “Ford gave me a Mustang GT. Really. And I love it.”
Some savvy writers make it a challenge, trying to figure out a witty way of disclosing the relationship without interrupting the narrative flow. On a piece I published a few days ago, for example, I state that the products I was reviewing “I received in return for my sharing my thoughts with you…”
Create A Transparent FTC Disclosure
Opening paragraph disclosures are good, but a more explicit disclosure at the end of your article is an excellent practice too, something that details the exact nature of the relationship. Like this one from the same article on my site:
EXAMPLE Disclosure: All of these products were supplied to me for free in return for me trying them out and sharing them with you. Sweet. This post is also sponsored by Babbleboxx on behalf of Single Edition Media.
Keep that golden rule in mind: disclose what you’d want someone else to disclose, and err on the side of being too detailed. Your brother runs the restaurant you’re reviewing? Your Mom is the CEO of the company that makes the device you’re sharing on Facebook? Do you just happen to be the inventor of a product? Just let us know and you’ll gain our trust. And your business will reap the benefit!