How to avoid a dreaded note from the FTC about an influencer

Recent guidance from the federal agency has many brands rethinking their influencer policies--for the better.

While some in the industry are predicting the influencer bubble will soon pop, brands are continuing to make influencers a large part of their marketing mix.

PR pros need to keep a few best practices in mind when working with influencers to ensure both sides are protected. The Federal Trade Commission released updated guidelines for social media disclosure in 2013, yet brands and influencers are still not following the proper procedures, leaving them vulnerable to legal action. The recent rounds of letters coming from the FTC may have some brands rethinking their strategy – and that’s a good thing.

For more than a decade, Coyne PR has been handling influencer marketing for clients across industries. We deal with influencers ranging from registered dietitians, patient advocates, and food content creators to social and travel influencers, product reviewers, beauty bloggers, and, of course, celebrities. No matter the industry or the influence, brands need to ensure the consumer understands that there is a business relationship established with the influencer so they are not misled.

Seems simple right? Then why are so many brands and influencers getting their hands slapped by the FTC? It’s because influencers often feel by putting "sponsored" or "ad" at the beginning of a post, it will somehow deem their content inauthentic. To combat this, influencers may try to bury the disclosure after the "click for more" section in a group of 10 or more hashtags, which limits the likelihood that a consumer will notice. To that end, brands are often unsure of when there is a need for disclosure, how it needs to be relayed, and how to customize it per platform. 

Whether you are handling your influencer marketing internally, hiring an agency, or leveraging a third-party network, it is important to understand what the guidelines call for and how to avoid jeopardizing your business or reputation.

The following are a few ways to avoid the dreaded letter from the FTC:

  • Make sure you are identifying and vetting trustworthy influencers who will disclose.
  • Don’t work with an influencer or network who tells you there is no need to disclose.
  • Provide guidance or requirements as part of your influencer contracts.
  • Ensure you or your agency have monitoring set up to track disclosure.
  • Create a process to address influencers if they do not disclose.
  • Collaborate with your legal and regulatory teams closely.

And don’t forget about creating an internal employee disclosure policy.

Stacy Bataille is VP at Coyne PR.

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