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.
Do you disclose sponsored posts?
— Corinne ⚡️ (@skinnedcartree) 12 September 2016
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).
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 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!