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WOMMA Ethics Committee White Paper (2014)

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WOMMA Ethics Committee White Paper …

WOMMA Ethics Committee White Paper

Ethical Word of Mouth Marketing Disclosure Best Practices in Today’s Regulatory Environment

WOMMA—in collaboration with industry leaders, members, non-members, academics and both B2C and B2B audiences and in consultation with the WOMMA Ethics Committee on issues of ethics and disclosure—formalized these recommended best practices and guidelines for social media, mobile and digital WOM communications in today’s regulatory environment to further industry ethics and professional disclosure practices.

This document was created to complement the WOMMA Guide to Best Practices for Disclosure in Digital, Social, and Mobile Marketing, the Ethics Code and other updates and resources that are made available at www.womma.org/ethics.

Considered a living document, this guide will be updated as needed to reflect new ethical concerns in disclosure practices, as well as changes in U.S. and international regulatory and other marketplace updates. Please note this guide is provided as a courtesy to our members and the industry at large, but is not intended to be legal advice. Always consult your own attorney to apply current law to your specific circumstances.

To download this document visit http://www.womma.org/ethicswhitepaper.

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  • 1. Revised January 13, 2014 1 WOMMA Ethics Committee White Paper Ethical Word of Mouth Marketing Disclosure Best Practices in Today’s Regulatory Environment WOMMA—in collaboration with industry leaders, members, non-members, academics and both B2C and B2B audiences and in consultation with the WOMMA Ethics Committee on issues of ethics and disclosure—formalized these recommended best practices and guidelines for social media, mobile and digital WOM communications in today’s regulatory environment to further industry ethics and professional disclosure practices. This document was created to complement the WOMMA Guide to Best Practices for Disclosure in Digital, Social, and Mobile Marketing, the Ethics Code and other updates and resources that are made available at www.womma.org/ethics. Considered a living document, this guide will be updated as needed to reflect new ethical concerns in disclosure practices, as well as changes in U.S. and international regulatory and other marketplace updates. Please note this guide is provided as a courtesy to our members and the industry at large, but is not intended to be legal advice. Always consult your own attorney to apply current law to your specific circumstances. DEFINITIONS For the purposes of this document, the following definitions should apply:  Material Connection – any connection between a speaker and a company or brand that could affect the credibility audiences give to that speaker’s statements about that company or brand, and may include any benefits or incentives such as monetary payment, free product, discounts, gifts, sweepstakes entries or other incentives and any employer/employee or other business relationship.   Advocate – Those with a ―material connection‖ to a marketer, who is sharing a message in connection with a marketing initiative. o Independent Advocate – Any individual (including but not limited to bloggers, vloggers, brand advocates, influencers, subject matter experts, brand ambassadors, customer reviewers) with a material connection to the brand not directly affiliated with a marketer who speaks, writes or conveys a message about a company or brand, its products and service or its competitors. o Affiliated Advocate – Any individual directly affiliated (as an employee, affiliate, representative, agency, vendor, etc.) with a marketer who speaks, writes or conveys a message about a company or brand, its products and services or its competitors .  Marketer – Any individual or entity engaged in the promotion and/or selling of a product or service of that entity as part of a marketing initiative (Advertisers, Public Relations Practitioners and other professional communicators are considered ―marketers‖ for the purpose of this document.).  Audience – The target or recipient of a message as a result of a marketing initiative.
  • 2. Revised January 13, 2014 2  Marketing Initiative – An organized or coordinated effort to market or promote a brand, product or service.  Consideration – Might include benefits or incentives such as monetary compensation, loaner products, free products or services, travel, accommodations, tickets, in-kind gifts, special access privileges, affiliate commissions, referral incentives, loyalty points, discounts, gift cards, sweepstakes entries or non-monetary incentives provided by a marketer, employee, agency or vendor as an inducement to an advocate to deliver a marketing message or participate in a marketing initiative.  Signs of Approval – Tools or functions of a platform that enable a user to communicate approval of a given account, user, post, page or content. Such approvals may be broadcast out across a given social network and may integrate into elements that exist outside of that social network in social functionality on third-party sites, widgets and advertising tools.  SCOPE OF WOMMA GUIDE As a living document, the WOMMA disclosure guide will provide interpretation of the latest industry and regulatory developments and guidance. The current guide brings forward the following sources:  Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guidance for Testimonials and Endorsements (2009 update);  Additional guidance in subsequent FTC actions and closing letters  The FTC Mobile Privacy report (2012)  .Com Disclosures report (2013 update).  Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidance with regard to both publicly traded entities and investment related communications  Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) with regard to financial institutions  Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) specifically with regard to retail banking operations  International guidance from organizations such as UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Since many word-of-mouth programs are hybrid in nature - developed to be conducted across traditional (offline) as well as digital and social initiatives - the expectation is that both online and offline communications should be consistently ethical and credible. SOCIAL MEDIA AND NEW MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS IN CONTEXT As our society increasingly relies on digital/social channels of communication, it is logical that marketing communications follow suit. Regulators are interpreting existing guidance in the context of new technology, but they are not changing core rules to adapt to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, nor for the technological limitations of new platforms. This means that marketers must adapt and treat new digital, social and mobile platforms as they would traditional communications channels. Recent guidance allows for social media to be treated as official corporate channels, so long as certain requirements are met. With such opportunity comes responsibility with respect to oversight, training and maintenance of these channels, both
  • 3. Revised January 13, 2014 3 corporate (owned) and, to a certain degree, 3rd party channels, such as independent or affiliated advocates’ channels. Key online platforms covered in this Guide include, but are not limited to:  Blogs (eg., Blogger, Wordpress);  Microblogs (e.g., Twitter, Pinterest);  Online comments (e.g., Disqus, Livefyre);  Social networks (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, Hi5);  Mobile communications apps (Facebook, WhatsApp);  Video sharing websites (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Vine);  Photo sharing websites (e.g., Flickr, Picasa, Pinterest, Instagram);  Curated content (Storify.com, Paper.li, Scoop.it, Flipboard);  Sponsored content (platform sponsored posts, promoted posts, paid advertorial & native advertising placements);  Affiliate sales (affiliate networks, resellers and direct affiliate relationships);  Referral networks; and  Podcasts. Note, platform names are for example only and may be updated from time to time as new platforms and types emerge or evolve. SPECIFIC GUIDANCE AND REFERENCES FTC Testimonials & Endorsements - http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm In 1975, the FTC’s Guide to Testimonials and Endorsements was created to ensure that advertising messages were truthful and clearly communicated in television, radio and print media and gave guidance as to when disclosures were required. Aside from a small update in 1980, these guides remained unchanged for almost 30 years until a substantial revision in 2009 brought the guide in line with today’s digital landscape and addressing web, social and short-form contexts. Key elements of this guidance are the foundation of the WOMMA disclosure guide and include the following:  Disclosure of ―material connections‖ for both paid and unpaid relationships that might not be reasonably expected by the audience. Marketers are subject to liability for false or unsubstantiated statements made through endorsements or for failing to disclose ―material connections‖ between themselves and their advocates. Marketers should inform, educate and monitor internal and external advocate resources with regard to disclosure and endorsement policies and concerns. • Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experience of the endorser and cannot convey a representation that would be deceptive if made directly by the marketer. Marketers cannot tell reviewers to write only positive things about the company’s products and services and, if soliciting them to post comments about products and services, should not delete the negative comments or base compensation or
  • 4. Revised January 13, 2014 4 participation upon positive reviews.  To limit their potential liability, marketers should ensure that they provide guidance and training to their internal teams, external agencies/partners and advocates concerning the need to ensure that statements advocates make are clearly disclosed, truthful and substantiated. The marketer should also monitor advocates who are promoting their products as part of a marketing initiative and take the steps necessary to halt the continued publication of deceptive representations when they are discovered. FTC .Com Disclosures -http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/03/dotcom.shtm On March 12, 2013, the FTC released a report to address social, digital and mobile channel disclosure issues. The .Com Disclosures report provides updated guidance—the previous report was issued in 2000—with regard to HOW to make effective online disclosures and adds further clarification to the FTC’s 2009 Guide to Endorsements and Testimonials (which focuses on WHEN to make disclosures). In doing so, the FTC has drawn a hard line in addressing the need for disclosures to be incorporated into all marketing messages, regardless of the platform or device that is used by an intended audience to interact with those messages, as follows:  Consumer protection laws apply to all marketers—regardless of the medium used—and specifically include mobile and social media communications, regardless of the space constraints, platform restrictions or technological limitations of these mediums;  Disclosures must be presented in a ―clear and conspicuous‖ manner;  Marketers need to understand how their messages—including any required disclosures— will actually display in the medium or on devices in which they appear; and  If a marketer cannot make a required disclosure effectively in a particular platform, then the marketer must revise the message to fit the disclosure or simply not run the message in that platform. Although the fundamental rules have not changed, the guidance provides useful information on how the FTC believes marketers should comply with the law when making claims in various channels. Like the original, the updated report emphasizes that consumer protection laws apply equally to marketers across all mediums, whether delivered on a desktop computer, a mobile device or more traditional media such as television, radio or print. Technological restrictions on space, the design of certain social media tools or the size of a given marketing message in a small screen or window do not exempt marketers from making required disclosures and notices on the platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., or on mobile phones, smartphones, tablets and other communications devices. SEC Guidance on the Use of Company Web Sites http://www.sec.gov/rules/interp/2008/34-58288.pdf & http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2013/2013-51.htm (update)
  • 5. Revised January 13, 2014 5 On April 2, 2013, the SEC released a report describing its investigation of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his disclosure of material, nonpublic information via his personal Facebook page. The SEC used this report as an opportunity to update the Commission Guidance on the Use of Company Web Sites originally published on August 7, 2008, to take into account the use of social media channels. The report reinforces all the language of the original document and underscores that the original guidance was intended to apply to new technologies for dissemination of information as they develop. More specifically, the report provides further clarification on the following two items:  Social network sites—when used properly—are acceptable platforms for dissemination of corporate information.  Regulation FD applies equally to social media communications. The report also identifies the most important factors for achieving compliance with the Regulation when using social media for corporate communications. SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES OF MARKETERS AND ADVOCATES UNDER THE TESTIMONIALS AND ENDORSEMENTS GUIDELINES With the sustained popularity of social media platforms from blogs to microblogging services to social network sites, the issue of ethical word of mouth marketing has taken on new prominence. Many brands and agencies are designing word of mouth marketing programs to foster relationships with social media participants, including the activities of both affiliated and independent advocates.. Potential customers have a right to know the marketer behind sponsored marketing messages that could influence their purchasing decisions, but key sponsorship information is not always adequately disclosed in a social media context. Thus, for testimonials and endorsements delivered through social media – whether by customers, experts, celebrities or organizations – the FTC requires that both marketers and advocates ensure that all ―material connections‖ are disclosed. ―Material connections,‖ as defined at the beginning of this document, include any connection between an advocate and a marketer that could affect the credibility audiences give to that advocate’s statements. Important examples of ―material connections‖ may include (i) consideration (benefits or incentives such as monetary compensation, loaner products, free products or services, travel, accommodation, tickets, in-kind gifts, special access privileges, affiliate commissions, discounts, gift cards, sweepstakes entries or non-monetary incentives) provided by a marketer to an advocate or (ii) a relationship between a marketer and an advocate (such as an employment relationship). RESPONSIBILITY OF MARKETERS UNDER FTC GUIDELINES Marketers must institute a company-wide social media policy that takes these responsibilities into account for their own employees and ensure that their agencies, partners, networks and vendors have policies that are in alignment with the marketer’s policy, as well as guidelines for the education, monitoring and supervision of advocates in accordance with such policies.
  • 6. Revised January 13, 2014 6 Marketers have a responsibility to take the five following actions to make certain their relationships to advocates are adequately disclosed:  Educate advocates, agencies, partners, networks and vendors on circumstances when disclosure is required and what that should look like  Reasonably monitor campaigns for compliance with policies, inclusion of required disclosures and claims that are substantiated and not false or misleading  Make commercially reasonable efforts to correct disclosure omissions or non-compliant claims o Should reasonably monitor for disclosure omissions and have a policy or guidelines to deal with non-compliant advocates, compliance training for first- time offenders and dismissal for repeat offenders.  Ensure agencies, partners, networks and vendors are in alignment with the marketer’s policies and guidelines for disclosure  Educate employees regarding required disclosures about the company’s products or services RESPONSIBILITY OF ADVOCATES UNDER FTC GUIDELINES When talking about a company with which they have a material connection, advocates have a responsibility to:  Ensure the relationship to a marketer is adequately disclosed in messages related to your participation in a marketing program  Disclose when making statements, providing reviews or acting as part of a marketing program  Make clear your relationship to a marketer when discussing that marketer’s products, services, brand or employees, or those of competitors  Comply with stated social media or blogging policies DISCLOSURE CONSIDERATIONS OF FTC .COM DISCLOSURES REPORT CLEAR AND PROMINENT DISCLOSURE While prior guidance recommended that required disclosures be placed ―near, and when possible, on the same screen,‖ the 2013 .Com Disclosures report directs marketers to position disclosures ―as close as possible‖ to the relevant claim on all platforms on which audiences can view marketing messages. The report clarifies that there are unique features in online marketing messages—including advertising and other content delivered via social media platforms or on mobile devices—that may affect how that content and any required disclosures are evaluated. With regard to disclosures, there isn’t a single method that works in all instances, but the report states ―the ultimate test is not the size of the font or the location of the disclosure, although they are important considerations; the ultimate test is whether the information intended to be disclosed is actually conveyed to consumers.‖ All disclosures should appear in a reasonable font size and color that is both readable and conspicuous to audiences where they are accessing the content, provide context to the nature of
  • 7. Revised January 13, 2014 7 the relationship being disclosed and presented in a format which is consistently communicated across syndicated platforms or channels. Disclosures must:  Be clear and prominent, regardless of the platform  Include language that is easily understood and unambiguous  Be placed in an easily viewed location  Be placed in the body of the message  Be placed in close proximity to claims and repeated as necessary  Not be buried behind a hyperlink when they can be written out in context  Be included, even in space-constrained platforms Whether a particular disclosure meets the clear and conspicuous standard must be evaluated in the context of the message itself. Space-constrained messages—such as banner ads, tweets and status updates—still require disclosure if they contain a claim that requires qualification. When determining placement of such disclosures, one should consider: 1) how important the information is to prevent deception or convey other material information, 2) how much information needs to be disclosed, 3) the burden of disclosing information within the message and 4) how much information the audience may absorb from the message itself. In evaluating whether a disclosure is sufficiently clear and conspicuous, the FTC recommends that marketers consider the following factors:  Whether the language of the disclosure is understandable to the intended audience;  Whether the disclosure is placed in such a way likely to be seen within the marketing message;  Whether the disclosure’s proximity to the claim being qualified is as close as reasonably possible;  Whether the disclosure is adequately prominent;  Whether the disclosure is unavoidable by the audience;  Whether the disclosure needs to be repeated in order to ensure that it is effectively communicated, seen and understood by the audience;  Whether other parts of the message distract attention from the disclosure; and  Whether audio and visual disclosures are presented in a style and duration sufficient to ensure comprehension by the audience. While these basic principles of ―clear and conspicuous‖ disclosure are retained in the 2013 .Com Disclosure Report, the report clarifies that there are unique features in online marketing messages—including content delivered via social media platforms or on mobile devices—that may affect how the message and any required disclosures are evaluated. Whether a particular disclosure meets the clear and conspicuous standard must be evaluated based upon the factors listed above, in the context of the message. CLOSE PROXIMITY A disclosure will be more effective if placed near the claim it qualifies or other relevant information; proximity as close as possible to that claim increases the likelihood that audiences
  • 8. Revised January 13, 2014 8 will see the disclosure and relate it to the relevant claim or product. When a disclosure is required and can be placed into a message, product description or claim, it should be done so in simple and straightforward language. If the placement requires its audiences to scroll in order to see a required disclosure, the marketing message should use visual cues to encourage those audiences to scroll to see more. Generic URLs, marketing taglines or broad or branded statements are likely insufficient, as they do not convey the importance of viewing the disclosure. If it is unavoidable for the audience to have to scroll to see a disclosure, then the disclosure should be made unavoidable, too—by, for example, placing the link to proceed with a transaction below the disclosure. Optimizing messages for mobile screens is encouraged in order to minimize or eliminate the need for the reader to scroll left or right or zoom in to see the disclosure on any platform or device. To be clear and conspicuous, a disclosure must be featured prominently in the context of the message, so as to be noticeable. In evaluating prominence, marketers should consider the size, color and graphics of the disclosure in relation to other parts of the message. SPACE-CONSTRAINED MESSAGES - GENERALLY If a disclosure is required for a space-constrained marketing message—such as a tweet or status update—it should be made each time the message is posted. Don’t assume that audiences will see your posts in sequential order. If the disclosure doesn’t fit, the FTC says the marketing message should be changed to include the disclosure or the platform should not be used. Disclosures should not be buried behind a hyperlink when they can be written out in context. When hyperlinks are the most effective way to deliver disclosure information (such as in space- constrained environments like Facebook and Twitter), they should be ―obvious‖ and explicitly labeled in language that clearly conveys information about the content on the linked page. Regardless of their format, disclosures should be labeled as clearly as possible and used in such a way as to maximize the chance that, should the audience click through the link, the full disclosure information is unavoidable and obvious. HYPERLINKS – GENERALLY In circumstances where disclosures are integral to a claim (in which case they should be placed on the same page and immediately next to the claim) or where they can be easily incorporated into text, hyperlinks should not be used to convey disclosures. However, the revised report highlights that ―hyperlinked disclosures may be particularly useful if the disclosure is lengthy or if it needs to be repeated.‖ Particularly on space-constrained platforms, hyperlinks that are clearly labeled in easy-to-understand disclosure language and prominently displayed an ―obvious‖ and ―unavoidable‖ manner may be used to provide disclosure, where such disclosure cannot otherwise be incorporated into the message. The report calls for hyperlinks to be near relevant information and noticeable, and it warns that they should not be subtle, nor should they attempt to ―hide the ball‖ on required disclosures. To that end, the Commission states that ―getting to the disclosure on the click-through should be
  • 9. Revised January 13, 2014 9 easy‖ and that the disclosure on the linked page must be displayed prominently. The disclosure should be easy to understand and presented directly to the audience. The use of hyperlinks is discouraged for health-, cost- and safety-related disclosures, since disclosures in these circumstances are generally integral to the claims that are made. Furthermore, the use of generic links to make disclosures is discouraged and, although the report points out that there are no one-size-fits-all words or phrases that can be used for all hyperlink labels, more specificity will generally be better.
  • 10. Revised January 13, 2014 10 FTC SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY BEST PRACTICES As stated above, marketers and their agencies, partners and vendors are required to have a social media policy, playbook or guidelines that are clearly stated, communicated and in alignment. WOMMA has also published a companion Social Media Policy Template that is available within the WOMMA Online Member’s Center. Below are key considerations with regard to developing best practices: 1. Mandate a disclosure policy that complies with the law; 2. Make sure people who work for you or with you have a policy in place to ensure compliance and 3. Monitor what employees or advocates are doing on your behalf for claims and disclosure. RESPONSIBILITY OF COMPANIES UNDER SEC GUIDANCE ON THE USE OF COMPANY WEB SITES AND NETFLIX REPORT Social media policies should address not only marketing communications but also dissemination of company information to the public, where relevant. While the SEC has been supportive of the use of social channels and new technologies to communicate with investors, specific guidance addresses the use of these platforms as official corporate channels. SEC SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY BEST PRACTICES Companies should have policies with regard to social media channels that might be considered to be official company channels or might be used to communicate earnings, performance or other reporting to the investor community. Those policies should develop procedures with regard to:  Providing the public with advance notice through your existing channels of which social media accounts you will be using to publish financial information.  Making sure to use social media channels that the investing public can freely access.  Avoiding the use of officer and employee personal social media accounts for sharing financial information unless you plan to specifically designate them as sources of company information.  Establishing controls and procedures to monitor statements made by or on behalf of the company in social media.  Ensuring that representatives of the company are aware of their responsibilities in social media and the fact that they cannot avoid these responsibilities by purporting to speak in their ―individual‖ capacities.  Applying the same level of scrutiny to information disseminated through social media that you would elsewhere.  Being certain to follow the individual guidelines for dissemination of social media in electronic channels, as laid out in the 2008 guidelines. OTHER REGULATORY RESOURCES For more information with regard to social media and disclosure requirements in other business categories and in other parts of the globe, please refer to www.womma.org/ethics. Highlights of key regulations are below:
  • 11. Revised January 13, 2014 11 US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) – http://finra.org US Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) - http://www.ffiec.gov UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) - www.asa.org.uk UK Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) - www.cap.org.uk UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) - www.oft.gov.uk DISCLOSURE BEST PRACTICES As stated above, advocates are required to disclose ―material connections‖ with marketers. If independent or affiliated advocates are talking about a company or brand (or even a competitor or a competitor’s brand) in a way that might influence their audience’s actions or opinions, they need to disclose that relationship. It may not always be clear as to whether a message might influence an audience to the extent that transparency is appropriate; when in doubt, the best practice is to make a disclosure. Depending on the situation it may or may not be important for them to reveal particular details of the relationship (e.g. when, why, or how much they were paid or given, for instance), but it is important in all cases that they alert the audience that a material connection exists. Listed below is sample disclosure language, organized by the platform used. Alternative, but substantively comparable, language may also be used where appropriate. Where possible, disclosure should be made in long-form and should be placed prominently and as close as possible to claims that require such disclosures. See guidance above in sections marked ―Space-Constrained Messages‖ and ―Hyperlinks‖ for more information about the use of short-form disclosures in microblogs and status updates. Note that technological restrictions on space, the design of certain social media tools and/or the size of a given message in a small screen or window do not exempt marketers from making required disclosures and notices on the platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., or on mobile phones, smartphones, tablets and other communications devices. Marketers should account for viewing on different devices, be aware that websites may need to be designed to display on different programs and devices and respond to such differences with responsive designs. The disclosures should be prominent, clear and readable (wrapping and zooming text as necessary), no matter the device on which they are viewed. PERSONAL AND EDITORIAL BLOGS – LONG-FORM DISCLOSURE  I received ___(product / sample / information)___ from ___(company name)___ , or  (Company name) ___ sent me ___(product / sample / information) ___ PRODUCT REVIEW BLOGS – LONG-FORM DISCLOSURE
  • 12. Revised January 13, 2014 12  I received ___(product / sample / information)___ from ___(company name)___ to review, or  I was paid by __(company name)__ to review Additionally for product review blogs, WOMMA strongly recommends creating and prominently posting a ―Disclosure and Relationships Statement‖ section on the blog, fully disclosing how a review blogger works with companies in accepting and reviewing products and listing any conflicts of interest that may affect the credibility of their reviews. Please note that a ―Disclosure and Relationships Statement‖ will not substitute for a disclosure within the article, review or post itself. PROVIDING COMMENTS IN ONLINE DISCUSSIONS AND/OR REVIEWS  I received ___(product / sample / information)___ from ___(company name)___ , or  I was paid by __(company name)__, or  I am an employee [or representative] of ___(company name)___ NOTE – SIGNIFICANT UPDATE IN GUIDANCE FOR SHORT-FORM DISCLOSURE: If used, hashtags that are clear, readable and not abbreviated such as #Sponsored might be sufficient. Note that, unlike previous guidance, #SPON, #SAMP and other abbreviations are likely to not be sufficient or clear enough. Generic links or links that merely include hashtags or other indications in the linking structure are likely to not be sufficient – for example bit.ly/f56#SPON) In addition, social media posts from the brand’s account or from an account that clearly identifies a person as with a company in the name of the account itself can serve as a form of disclosure (i.e. “@JaneFromBRAND” on Twitter.) MICROBLOGS AND STATUS UPDATES – SHORT-FORM DISCLOSURE Where possible, long-form disclosure should be included, such as:  I received ___(product / sample / information)___ from ___(company name)__ , or  I am participating in __(program name)__ with/sponsored by __(company name)__, or  I was paid by __(company name)__ Alternatively, short phrases or notations may be used where long-form is not practicable – so long as the disclosure is made clearly and conspicuously and as such disclosure information is made obvious and unavoidable to audiences. This may include a notation that reasonably discloses any material connection, such as:  A clear notation that the message is an advertisement, such as “AD:” or “SPONSORED:” placed at the beginning of the message  A short phrase clearly indicating that a specific type of “material connection” exists, such as “brand ambassador”  URLs indicating that a specific type of material connection exists and directing people to a “Disclosure and Relationships Statement”
  • 13. Revised January 13, 2014 13  A hyperlink that is readable, clear and understandable to the reasonable audience as to the nature of a disclosure that it links to (See note above for hyperlink guidance.)  Hashtags that are clear, readable and not abbreviated such as #IWork4BRAND (See note above for hashtag guidance) If status updates are limited by character restrictions, the best practice is to include a notation that reasonably discloses any material connection, such as a short phrase indicating that a specific type of ―material connection‖ exists, a URL clearly indicating that a specific type of material connection exists and directing people to a ―Disclosure and Relationships Statement‖ or clearly marked, readable hashtags, as noted above. Additionally, WOMMA strongly recommends posting a link on your profile page directing people to a full ―Disclosure and Relationships Statement.‖ This statement, much like the one WOMMA recommends for review blogs, should state how you work with companies in accepting and reviewing products and list any conflicts of interest that may affect the credibility of your sponsored or paid reviews. Note, however, that profile disclosures should not be considered a replacement for disclosure in individual posts. An advocate’s disclosures should appear close to the endorsement or testimonial statement they are posting. HIGH-TECH METHODS OF DISCLOSURE High-tech methods of disclosure—such as frames, interstitial pages or other unavoidable elements that scroll with the window or pop-ups—may be effective. However, marketers should be aware that certain devices cannot take advantage of such technologies. Furthermore, many pop-ups can be blocked, and many that are not blocked are ignored. Disclosures made via a pop- up can be more effective by requiring the customer to take affirmative action in order to proceed to designated content—for example, selecting ―yes‖ or ―no,‖ with no choice preselected. VIDEO & PHOTO SHARING WEBSITES Include as part of video/photo content and part of the written description:  I received ___(product / sample / information)___ from ___(company name)___ , or  I was paid by __(company name)__ Additionally, WOMMA strongly recommends posting a full description or a link on your video and/or photo sharing profile page directing people to a ―Disclosure and Relationships Statement.‖ Note that, for embeddable videos or assets, consideration should be made for the disclosure to be both readable/audible and conspicuous to audiences where they are accessing the content. PODCASTS Include, as part of the audio content and part of the written description:  I received ___(product / sample / information)___ from ___(company name)___ , or  I was paid by __(company name)__
  • 14. Revised January 13, 2014 14 Additionally, WOMMA strongly recommends posting a full description or a link directing people to a ―Disclosure and Relationships Statement.‖
  • 15. Revised January 13, 2014 15 ADDITIONAL DISCLOSURE ISSUES For certain types of programs, additional disclosure may need to be made to audiences to ensure that they are fully informed. These types continue to evolve and develop in complex interconnected social media environments, which are fluid and fast-moving. The examples below are meant to highlight some of the challenging and emerging areas that we see today, which may require additional consideration. Contests & Promotions – May be considered a ―material connection‖ or consideration and require disclosure Like-Gating – Rules, terms and required disclosures should be made publicly available and not gated behind logins, firewalls or only to users who have already approved or accepted those terms. Social Incentives and Signs of Approval – These tools present unique challenges to disclosure and, therefore, for use by advocates. These challenges should be considered and may be addressed in a social media policy or guidelines. Attribution of Social Incentives and Signs of Approval – Links and approval attribution should be directed specifically to content which the audience reasonably believes that they are responding. Third-Party Product/Service Claims – Reasonable monitoring may include ensuring that claims made about your products and services by your advocates are truthful and accurate. Note that, even if an unrelated party initially made a particular statement, brands must educate affiliated and independent advocates—as well as brand managers—that they still have responsibility for verifying accuracy and making reasonable disclosures when amplifying that statement—for instance, linking to an article or reposting a comment made by someone else. Celebrity Endorsements – Celebrity endorsements traditionally did not require disclosure in the context of advertisements. In social media, both the understanding of what is clearly advertising and of who is a celebrity has been blurred. UK regulations specifically require disclosure of celebrity endorsements, and US guidance indicates that best practice would be to require disclosure of endorsements by all advocates (celebrity and otherwise) participating in a marketing initiative. Terms of Service Disclosures - Terms of Service disclosures are recommended as a best practice to ensure that disclosures are clearly communicated. Note, however, that they may not be a sufficient disclosure on their own and should not be considered a replacement for disclosure in individual posts. Disclosures should appear close to the endorsement or testimonial statement they are posting. Profile and Background Disclosures – Profile and Background disclosures are recommended as a best practice to ensure that disclosures are clearly communicated. Note, however, that they may not be a sufficient disclosure on their own and should not be considered a replacement for
  • 16. Revised January 13, 2014 16 disclosure in individual posts. Disclosures should appear close to the endorsement or testimonial statement they are posting. Syndication – Marketers should be aware that social media messages are often republished or repurposed, and therefore disclosures should be placed in a way that they are likely to be included when the content to which they are repurposed or republished are displayed to audiences. Product Reviews – Marketers should ensure that product reviews disseminated by advocates, affiliates or representatives are honest and truthful and that any ―material connection‖ between the marketer and the reviewer are disclosed. Product review sites that have a connection to the marketer should not be presented as independent news reports, and the nature and source of those reviews should be transparent. Additionally, advocates who have received consideration for the creation or placement of reviews by virtue of this consideration require disclosure. Sponsored Content – These same principles apply to sponsored or integrated marketing activities (including so- called ―native advertising‖), when disclosure would be appropriate to dis sponsored content should be clearly labeled as such. Sponsored links or content should include ―No Follow‖ tags, and coding should be honest and truthful with regard to source, attribution, etc. In addition, claims and required disclosures should be addressed in a policy or guidelines and included with sponsored or curated content. Reasonable Monitoring – Brands should be aware of communications by advocates on their behalf with regard to disclosure and compliance with their stated policy. If the required disclosures do not appear, marketers must employ commercially reasonable efforts to address the situation, which may range from having advocates insert the required disclosures to requesting they pull the content in question. Marketers should also have a policy in place to deal with non- compliant advocates, including ―compliance training‖ for first-time non-disclosers and possible dismissal for repeat non-disclosers. Sharing of Passwords – While monitoring of certain activities may be required, demands for passwords of personal accounts of employees (or others) on social media platforms or other accounts may violate platform terms of service and likely present ethical, privacy and other concerns. Privacy & Data Collection/Retention - Organizations should be open and honest about Personally Identifiable Information ("PII") that they are collecting, using and sharing from audiences. PII is to be interpreted broadly, as encompassing not only any type of information that could be used to uniquely identify a person - including, for example, a person's name, address, phone number, birth date, social security number or credit card or bank account numbers - but also "personal information" that can be used to identify or locate a person. Organizations should communicate about data privacy policies, collection, retention and their responsibility in the event of a personal data leakage with audiences in a clear and conspicuous manner and in a language that is understandable to the reasonable intended audience. For more information, please visit http://womma.org/ethics/privacy_guidance/.
  • 17. Revised January 13, 2014 17 © 2014 Word of Mouth Marketing Association, all rights reserved.