PR 'must not take back seat' on influencer marketing regulation, says PRCA

The PRCA has told the PR industry that it must be proactive in understanding developments in regulations around the use of influencer marketing and paid endorsements.

PRs must know the rules when working with platforms such as Instagram (Credit: David Brabiner/Alamy)
PRs must know the rules when working with platforms such as Instagram (Credit: David Brabiner/Alamy)

The call comes after several organisations fell foul of the rules in recent months, and a study pointed to low awareness of the regulation in a survey last week. PRWeek reported a study that found that six in 10 marketing and PR professionals admitted to flouting the Advertising Standards Authority rules around influencer marketing.

The ASA says that not disclosing the nature of paid commercial content is a banned practice under consumer protection law. Earlier this year, the body reprimanded BuzzFeed for a 'brand publisher' post after deciding it was not clearly labelled as an advertorial.

The Competition and Markets Authority, which also enforces consumer protection law, said last week in announcing its findings against two media and ad agencies that it was "unlawful and unacceptable" for organisations to fail to "identify advertising and other marketing, so that it appears to be the opinion of a journalist or blogger". It also took action last month against an agency that wrote fake online reviews for a client.

PRCA public affairs, policy and research manager Nicholas Dunn-McAfee said that he did not recognise the aforementioned survey as representative of the PR industry, but said: "However, we always welcome informed guidance and remind professionals that, if there is ever a grey area in the law, to consult the self-regulatory codes of conduct and proactively seek the answers. The PR industry cannot be perceived to take a back seat on this."

He said that the PRCA supported the work of the CMA and PRCA, and added: "It is important to remember that regulation often has a habit of playing catch-up when it comes to new technologies and the behaviours associated with them. While guidance has to be timely, there still needs to be time allowed for due process and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders."

He said that the PRCA had contributed to the consultation process that led to the formation of the CMA's recent guidance papers - one aimed at marketing departments and clients, and the other at businesses specifically.

He also said that while there was a "potential overlap" between the roles of the ASA and CMA, this was not a problem per se. "This is where good comms comes in – to clarify areas of responsibility and reasons for being," he said.

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