Ethical blogging – UK blogging and bloggers
While we love helping to forge meaningful ties between bloggers and brands, we want to make sure that we’re always promoting ethical blogging and encouraging our bloggers to be transparent with their readers about any commercial or sponsored relationships.
Our assignments may contain opportunities which involve the receiving of products for review (which you may be able to keep), the offer of complimentary services, free trips or event tickets, or some sort of financial renumeration, in exchange for publishing a piece of written or photographic content on your blog.
How you keep things above board is an ever evolving topic, but with the growing level of influence that bloggers are having over consumer decision-making and purchases, it makes sense that you fully disclose any incentive or payment that you’ve received as part of a written review.
In the UK, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has warned that not disclosing paid-for promotional content, on a blog or microblogging platform like Twitter, constitutes deceptive practice under fair trading laws.
Similarly, it advises brands “not to engage in promotional activity unless bloggers within its network prominently disclose, in a manner unavoidable to the average consumer, that the promotion has been paid for or otherwise remunerated.”
The OFT explains, “The integrity of information published online is crucial so that people can make informed decisions on how to spend their money. We expect online advertising and marketing campaigns to be transparent so consumers can clearly tell when blogs, posts and microblogs have been published in return for payment or payment in kind. We expect this to include promotions for products and services as well as editorial content.”
So what does this mean for bloggers in the UK & UK blogging?
There are some simple steps that we recommend you follow, to ensure you’re being ethical in your blogging.
- If you’ve received payment or incentive for a blog post, always disclose your interests. This will ensure that your readers know it is a marketing communication. An easy way to do this is to include a statement within the body of your post which says something along these lines: “This product was provided to me free of charge from the company in order to review it. However, the opinions expressed in this review are independent and my own.”
- Make sure you are following the appropriate terms and conditions of the social media platform or website that you are using in relation to promoting a product or service.
- If you have been paid to write a sponsored post and have been asked to include a hyperlink within it, which links through to the brand you are working with, this should have the ‘nofollow’ attribute. Further information on “nofollow” for specific links, information on Google’s stance on paid links and March 11th 2016 Google > Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies
- If you have an ongoing relationship with a sponsor, describe the terms of it in a post or disclosure page and link back to this in all related posts.
- Clearly label advertising, advertorials and/or sponsored posts. This includes tweets on Twitter/Instagram that are paid for (the IAB advises you use the hashtag #ad) and #spon.
- If you have been asked to write a review of a product or service, adhere to best practice by always writing honestly about your observations and experience. Don’t let payments or incentives sway your judgment or opinion.
- Don’t be tempted to pay for social media followers. This is unethical and not something we endorse.
- Reviewing free products > Google has its own best practices for reviewing free products.
- Gov.uk – Online Reviews: letting your customers see the true picture and Online reviews and endorsements: information for businesses.
- Gov.uk –Social media endorsements: being transparent with your followers
At the end of the day, this is all just common sense. As the blogging landscape changes, these guidelines are likely to evolve, so please continue to watch this space. We will do our best to keep you informed of new developments, and please feel free to share tips or advice with us too.
Further reading for UK blogging and bloggers:
- Blurring advertising and blogs – why it pays to know the ad rules
- Paid-for bloggers take note: some advice on ASA guidelines – 15th Nov 2013
- Paying bloggers for positive reviews: is it common and is it right? – 18th Nov 2013
- Paid promotions guidance from the IAB – 10th Nov 2011
- OFT secures promotional blogging disclosures – 13th Dec 2010
- Brands and Bloggers: Keep Your Sponsored Content Legal – 11th March 2015
- Bloggers Beware: Image Copyright Infringement Is Costly – 14th April 2015
- Content and Native disclosure guidelines – 2nd Sept 2015
- CAP New vlogging advertising guidance – 19th Aug 2015
- CAP Vlogging scenarios – 19th Aug 2015
- Google > Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies – March 11th 2016
- International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) a network of consumer protection authorities from around 60 countries, has published three sets of guidelines on online reviews and endorsements: – 30th June 2016
– For review administrators
– For traders and marketing professionals
– For digital influencers
- Gov.uk – Online Reviews: letting your customers see the true picture and Online reviews and endorsements: information for businesses. – March/April 2016
- CAP Affiliate Marketing: New Advertising Guidance for social influencers – March 2016
- ASA – Online Affiliate Marketing Guidelines– March 2017
- FTC – FTC Staff Reminds Influencers and Brands to Clearly Disclose Relationship April 2017
- ASA – New guidance launched for social influencers 28th Sept 2018
- Gov.uk –Social media endorsements: being transparent with your followers– 23 Jan 2019