The Federal Trade Commission’s new “Dot Com Disclosures” clearly affect online display advertising, social media marketing and blogger relations. Although the FTC’s guidelines don’t directly address content marketing, they have definite implications for brands acting as publishers — especially in the areas of transparency and responsibility.
Marketers should be publishing editorial content that provides unbiased, useful information. Over time, this content will help establish trust and build a relationship between the brand and its consumers.
One of the key ways a brand builds this trust is through transparency. Regardless of where the content is posted — from the brand’s website to a separate content platform built by a marketer or a syndicator — readers should be able to quickly and easily tell who created the content.
This means a content platform that doesn’t have the brand’s name in its title should have “brought to you by CPG Co.,” “created by CPG Co.” or similar verbiage featured prominently on the site. Syndicators should clearly label all brand-created content as a “sponsored post” or something similar.
Marketers also need to be transparent when using outside vendors to produce content. A disclosure that the brand compensates third-party writers for their work helps avoid falsely-implied endorsements and reader confusion.
No matter who writes the content, the brand is ultimately responsible for its accuracy. Claims made within the content should be verified and cited — this includes linking to the source material, if possible. If a piece of content dispenses advice, it should have a disclaimer explaining any potential ill effects of following that advice. And of course, marketers should never publish content that defames a person, company or brand.
Writers creating content for brands share many of the same standards as journalists. Their material needs to be as accurate, honest and unbiased as possible. Just as an editor is ultimately responsible for holding journalists to those standards, brands must ensure their writers are producing quality work.
Consumers are more discerning than ever, and an ethical misstep by a brand can destroy trust and positive sentiment. Rather than see these new FTC rules as hindrances, brands should look at them as guides to creating an ethical, successful content development program.
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