Posted on September 14, 2016

A bloggers guide to disclosing sponsored posts and product reviews.

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A bloggers guide to disclosing sponsored posts and product reviews.

Bloody hell. This is a frustrating post to have to write.

Before I get into this post: It’s really important to me that the information in this post is correct. I’ve been staring at the CAP website for hours and, to be honest, it’s vague in places. I’ve spoken to other bloggers and researched as much as possible. If any of this information isn’t right, please let me know and give me a link to the correct information and I’ll update the post. I want everyone to be informed of the correct disclosure for blog posts. 

Let’s get some context, shall we. I got the following email from an online marketing agency:

My company presents an online gambling company.

I would like to post a new article at your site. The article should fit the site and the readers, as it possibly can. This is why I prefer you will write it.

It should not mention “advertisement”, “sponsors”, “PR”. It should have the same writing style like all other articles. It should be at least 350-400 words and with unique content (not copied from any other site).

To which I responded:

I always disclose paid articles as per ASA and Google guidelines.

To which she responded:

But if you write the post and the link is natural why to label it as sponsored? what is the price for sponsored post?

To which I responded:

It’s not a natural link if you’re paying me to put it in. I always disclosed sponsored posts.

It proper annoyed me. If they had just said ‘no worries’ then that’s fine. But trying to tell me to do something I know is wrong, and to tell me it’s okay. That’s what overstepped the line, lady.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to do a poll on Twitter. The poll revealed that some people didn’t actually understand the question which concerned me.

That means these people aren’t clued up and could get manipulated into selling links without disclosing, which can harm you in your site in many ways. You could also be faced with a fine.

A bloggers guide to disclosing sponsored posts and product reviews.

So I wanted to write a post about the possible consequences of link selling without disclosure. Whether you want to sell links or not is your risk to take, all I ask is you are well informed.

I’ve already written a post about selling follow links and the risk that can have on your website, this time, I want to talk about not disclosing a partnership.

This applies to both reviews and sponsored posts.

From the CAP website:

Towards the end of last year the ASA reminded bloggers about when and how the advertising rules apply to them. In short, the ASA requires bloggers who are paid (directly or in kind) by a third party to write reviews or comments about a product or service and who cede editorial control of the blog to that third party to be up-front with their followers by making clear that it’s advertising.

These rules also apply to companies; so, any business or PR agency looking to promote products and services by entering into commercial relationships with bloggers should also be aware of them.

The things you need to think about here are:

  • Have you been paid?
  • Do you have editorial control?

Editorial control is basically being told what to write (keywords, set phrases, links). Or having to send over a final draft to be okay’ed before the post goes live. If the company paying has editorial control, then you have to disclose the relationship in the first few lines or paragraph of the post, or in the title.

This is because it’s assumed that any mention of a brand is the choice of the blogger, so needs to be made clear before the content is read (or watched, if on YouTube).

A key rule under the CAP Code is that if the content is controlled by the marketer, not the vlogger, and is written in exchange for payment (which could be a monetary payment or free items) then it is an advertisement feature and must be labelled as such (rule 2.4).

From CAP.

If you are being paid or given a free item without being told what to write, then you don’t have to disclose under CAP code, but in order to comply with consumer protection legislation, CMA would expect brands and vloggers to tell consumers if an item was given on the condition that it is talked about.

In this case, you would have to still disclose but you’ll it doesn’t have to be in the first few words of the post or the title. It can be in the footer.

This is because bloggers have to let their readers know if any incentive for the blog post.

Think of it similar to Googles guidelines around follow and no-follow links. If you are creating a post because you’ve been sent something, whether you were told what to write or not, or even if it was just for consideration of a review, you still need to let your readers know because it’s not a post that has happened naturally.

I hope this post makes sense and is helpful to you!

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12 Comments

  • Reply Sarah September 14, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Those emails! I hate them! It worries me that newer or more naive bloggers undoubtedly fall for them too all for the sake of a cash incentive. It’s scary how many of these PR people don’t seem to understand the guidelines, I mean they’re getting PAID to do it as a job, whereas most of us bloggers just do this for the kicks and giggles – how do they NOT know or understand??

    Hobby or not, I don’t see the point in threatening the integrity of my blog, and if my blog was my job? Oh hell no! Each to their own, and on your own head be it if you go against the guidelines but they’re going to start cracking down and as soon as the fines start flying, oh can you IMAGINE the twitter drama?

    Sarah 🙂
    Saloca in Wonderland
    Sarah recently posted…Garnier Micellar Oil-Infused Cleansing WaterMy Profile

  • Reply Mica September 14, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    This is a good post! Even though I’m not in the UK so different rules apply, I think it’s important for people to be aware of the guidelines. Always better to over state a sponsorship and err on the side of caution than to try avoid stating it and appear dishonest or worse break the law.
    Mica recently posted…Win a Gift Card For Diapers (Cloth Ones)My Profile

  • Reply Susanna | Ordinality September 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    This is a good post and very useful! Bloggers & influencers have pretty much had a free reign and not been pulled up on their non-compliant practices, but the authorities are closing in… If we look at across the pond, even the Kardashians are getting into trouble, which is good; there are so many impressionable people following these influencers and getting fed wrong information!
    Susanna | Ordinality recently posted…Breaking habits – a tale of life, fear and strugglesMy Profile

  • Reply Anett September 14, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Great post Corinne! I wonder if these rules apply in Italy as well though?

    Bella Pummarola
    Anett recently posted…$200 Cash Giveaway!My Profile

  • Reply Thuy September 14, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    I’ve never received a messed up email like that lmao. I admit, I wasn’t too sure about these guidelines either. More specifically, I wasn’t sure about the terminology. Are partnerships, sponsorships, and collaborations interchangeable? Different? if so, how? Now, if I get a free item in exchange for a post (I currently don’t get paid for posts), I’ll put c/o in the outfit details and mention that I’ve partnered or collaborated with them by either mentioning it in the beginning or thanking them in the end.

    http://www.dressupchowdown.com

  • Reply Lucy September 14, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    A really well written article and worth the research and hard work I’m sure it took to write. I hate PR companies who bypass proper protocols for advertising and try and trap bloggers or get them to do something that is underhand Lucy x
    Lucy recently posted…Sleep DeprivationMy Profile

  • Reply Rebeca September 15, 2016 at 6:09 am

    I have found it very useful your post, I do not like to send me articles written by the company, never accept such cooperation, try to have editorial control of my blog always, now I understand why some bloggers begin to make clear that before starting your article.
    Rebeca recently posted…El abrigo azulMy Profile

  • Reply Anca September 15, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I am annoyed too by these sort of emails, this kind of post have to be disclosed. I think they are trying to take advantage of bloggers.
    Anca recently posted…Carlisle CastleMy Profile

  • Reply Rae September 17, 2016 at 7:03 am

    Such an insightful article, we don’t currently accept sponsored posts but it’s always very useful to have posts like yours to refer back to for if/when that time comes. I would never want to compromise the integrity of the blog and I don’t think it is fair on the readers when sponsored posts and reviews aren’t disclosed. It’s so sneaky when PR companies try to get around the rules!

  • Reply Kaitlynn Marie September 17, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    First of all, super shady that they didn’t understand why you needed to disclose. Second of all, excellent info and I’m glad to have it! This will be pinned for future reference 🙂
    Kaitlynn Marie recently posted…30 Day No Spend Challenge – September 2016 Edition – Update 2My Profile

  • Reply Aimee September 19, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    This is really helpful – having only recently ventured in sponsored posts and handing over editorial control I’ve found disclosure etc really hard to get my head around. This has really helped me understand. Thank you!
    Aimee recently posted…MOAR purrfect post!* || With Cat HampurrMy Profile

  • Reply Kezzie September 19, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    That definitely sounded very dodgy! A very helpful article for someone who wanted to accept sponsored posts!x
    Kezzie recently posted…August readsMy Profile

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