How can I ensure that my blogger relations efforts are in compliance with the new FTC guidelines? _______________________________________________________________ Kayleigh Fitch, blogger relations expert
While the FTC’s updated Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising can be complex and difficult to understand in entirety, there are specific and clear guidelines a marketer should be aware of when promoting products and services through blogger relations.
The complete text of the Revised Endorsement and Testimonials Guides can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm. In the meantime, below is a list of the basic guidelines to help ensure you are in compliance with the new regulations when it comes to blogger relations.
1. Understand that not all blogger reviews are considered endorsements. A blog review written by a consumer who regularly uses your product or brand, who decides to purchase the product of their own accord, or purchases the product through a special promotion or discount available to most consumers or received through a rewards program is not considered an endorsement under the FTC’s new guidelines.
2. If a blogger reviews your company’s product or service and writes about the experience in a blog post as if he or she has in fact used the product personally, ensure that the blogger has actually tested your product before writing about it or clearly discloses that is not the case. It is not acceptable for a blogger to portray that he or she has used a product personally when that is not the case. “When the advertisement represents that the endorser uses the endorsed product, the endorser must have been a bona fide user of it at the time the endorsement was given.” (Section 255.1)
3. Monitor blog reviews for unsubstantiated claims. For example, if a blogger claims in a post that the skin lotion you asked the blogger to review has the ability to cure eczema and there is no substantiated evidence of this claim, then both you and the blogger are liable under the new guidelines.
“The advertiser is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made through the blogger’s endorsement. The blogger also is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made in the course of her endorsement.” (Section 255.1)
4. It is not illegal to pay a blogger to write a positive review of your products, although Sweeney strongly discourages against pay-for-placement blogger relations. However, if you decide to go that route, you are responsible for ensuring that the blogger clearly discloses that he or she has been paid for their review.
“The blogger [and the marketer] is also liable if she fails to disclose clearly and conspicuously that she is being paid for her services.” (Section 255.1)
5. Ensure that the blogger fully discloses any and all material connections to you, your company, product or service “that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement.” (Section 255.4) The FTC does acknowledge that connections that are reasonably expected by the audience need not be disclosed. But if you are unsure what is considered “reasonably expected”, err on the side of caution and disclose the connection.
6. Specifically, you should ensure that a blogger clearly discloses when a product or service being reviewed has been provided for free, regardless of the value of the product. The FTC considers both bloggers and marketers responsible for ensuring this guideline is met and specifically states, “The manufacturer should advise him [the blogger] at the time it provides the gaming system [product for review] that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.”
7. When communicating an endorsement message obtained through blogger relations (e.g. on sales literature or on a company web site) it is not necessary to use the exact words of the endorser. But, endorsements reworded or supplied out of context can come under scrutiny if they falsely represent an opinion or experience.
“The endorsement message need not be phrased in the exact words of the endorser, unless the advertisement affirmatively so represents. However, the endorsement may not be presented out of context or reworded so as to distort in any way the endorser’s opinion or experience with the product.” (Section 255.1 of Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising)
Want to implement a blogger relations campaign or have questions about the FTC guidelines as they relate to social media marketing, contact me at kalyeigh at sweeneypr.com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.
Besides my own garden, I don’t purchase organic produce because I’m never sure what organic produce is worth the increased cost (I’m a pretty frugal shopper). I have read many articles about this topic, including one article that said if the produce has a thick skin then it is lower in pesticide residue. However, that doesn’t seem to be 100% accurate.
This weekend I was reading my local paper and finally located what I feel to be a credible source, The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides (http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php). It ranks pesticide contamination for 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 87,000 tests conducted from 2000 to 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The tests where conducted after the produce had been rinsed or peeled.
Peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines and strawberries contain the most pesticides. Therefore, these fruits and veggies would be worthwhile to purchase organic. On the other hand onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes and asparagus have the lowest pesticide residue, and it makes sense to stick to non-organic from a cost standpoint.
Certainly there are other reasons than just consuming pesticide residue to purchase organic foods, like the fact that conventional farming produces run-off that contains excess nitrogen, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides. But for most consumers like me, our decisions are typically based on price. It is worthwhile for me to do my due diligence and discover what organic produce is worth splurging on because it is truly better for my family and me.
Life is full of choices.
Pepsi or Coke? Salad or pasta? Boxers or briefs? Compact or utility vehicle? Answer it or let it roll over? Go out or stay in? Take the over or the under? Call or send an e-mail? Drive or take a cab? Lots of choices…. a seemingly endless stream of choices.
The funny thing is, many of them – most of them – do not even register on a conscious level. Yet all of them have the potential to turn your life upside down. The right choice can put you in the right place at the right time. And the wrong choice can put you in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Life is funny that way.
The thing is, you rarely know until it is too late how the choice you made will turn out. So, the best you can do is raise your awareness and try harder to think just a little longer about the decisions you make. I mean really, how many times in life have you looked back and admitted: “I knew this was going to happen.” And yet you made the choice anyway.
Then you beat yourself up, focusing on those times when your choices have serious ramifications (usually bad ones). When the decision to go out instead of staying home leads to one too many drinks and a DUI. When the choice to order dessert instead of stopping after the main course leads to stomach pains and guilt pangs. When the choice to buy the off-brand HDTV for $499 instead of purchasing the proven brand for $699 leads to frustration when the picture dies two days after the warranty expires. I hate that.
Judgments are a bitch.
Mostly because we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the good choices we make and pay way too much attention to the bad ones. All of which is compounded when those around us (friends, family, associates, employers, spouses) also pay way too much attention to our bad choices and not nearly enough to the good ones. And so it goes.
I recall a hot summer day from my youth when I made the decision to spend one of my hard-earned paperboy dollars on a jumbo, grape milkshake. The owner of the Kustard Kastle tried to talk me out of it. My best friend Bill tried to talk me out of it. Even the little voice in my head was trying to talk me out of it. But I was having none of it. I wanted that grape milkshake; the thought alone of purple ice cream had me captivated.
But after only one sip I knew I chose poorly. Or did I? Truth be told, I learned some valuable lessons that hot summer day; lessons I still remember 40 years later.
1. Listen to the advice of people you trust; they have your best interest at heart.
2. Don’t waste hard earned money.
3. Give yourself a break when you make a mistake; you are human.
4. True friends will always stick by you, even when you screw up.
5. Never, ever order a purple milkshake.
The Detroit Free Press announced earlier this month that the government released a sobering jobs report indicating that the number of unemployed nationally rose by 632,000 people in the month of December to more than 11 million.
That’s a lot of people, many of whom are experiencing serious repercussions.
According to a recent report in the Washington Business Journal, “Two recessions over the last decade have elevated the number of people living in poverty, with nearly half of the increase occurring in the suburbs of the nation’s biggest metropolitan areas, according to a report released Wednesday by the.”
People aren’t just losing their jobs, they are losing their cars and their houses, even their families. It is a tragedy no less real or tangible than any other disaster.
Of course in the midst of all this, the single biggest unemployment story in the news is that of Conan O’Brien, who stands to lose the one job he dedicated his life to landing. And I really feel sorry for Conan to the extent that he is getting screwed. Of course, I have also enjoyed the comedy battle royale that has ensued over the past few weeks as Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman and Jay and Conan ruthlessly bash the snot out of NBC. It is American entertainment at its finest.
And then you remember the 11 million unemployed. The fortunate ones are collecting unemployment, which barely covers even the most basic needs, while the others have nothing but charity to fall back on. Meanwhile Conan stands to – at worst – collect $30+ million while waiting for his next gig.
All of which brings me back, once again, to that PBS special featuring Alan Alda in search of the human spark. Earlier this week, Alan Alda discovered how babies pick cooperative puppets over those that won’t play. The general conclusion being that it is in our nature – even from the earliest stages of life – to prefer people who are helpful over people who are not. Something inside us is drawn to good.
So despite all the unemployment and the havoc it is wreaking. And despite the fiasco at NBC. There is reason to be optimistic and dare I say, hopeful. Because it turns out the nature of human uniqueness involves empathy and cooperation.
And that is a good thing.
Do publicity and media relations tactics like news releases and media coverage support organic search engine optimization?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Publicity and media relations do support organic search engine optimization. In fact, it is very beneficial for the public relations team to be working hand-in-hand with the search engine optimization team. This will help ensure keywords are being used throughout press materials and media interviews, and the publicity and media relations tactics being implemented support organic SEO to the best of their ability.
Below are a few tips on how to ensure your publicity and media relations efforts also benefit organic SEO.
News Releases: The first priority of a news release is to get the media’s interest and result in a news story. Therefore, a news release should be written for the media first. However, once you write a news release and distribute it to the media, revise the release for redistribution on the web. Ask the SEO team for keywords and optimize the news release with 1-3 of those keywords. Post the web release on free and paid distribution sites and on your web site’s media room. This increases the likelihood your news release will return on search engine results for those particular keywords.
Media Coverage: Media coverage not only builds brand, but can also help support organic SEO. Often, media will include a link to your web site in a story. This creates links to your site that are seen as more credible by search engines.
Also, frequent use of your keywords used throughout the media story can help the story appear on search engine results for those particular keywords. For this reason, it is beneficial to train your spokesperson to use your identified keywords during interviews. which increases exposure of the story to the right audiences.
Media Rooms: Because content and, more specifically, new content is king when it comes to organic SEO, continuing to update your media room will help support SEO. It will also provide the media with more relevant content and fodder for news stories.
Want to know more about how publicity and media relations can build brands and support SEO? Need help establishing your media room? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910-772-1688.
More than 30 million Americans sat home on Monday to watch American Idol’s two-hour premier. That is a lot of 18-49 year olds who you would think could find better things to do with their time than watch TV… like surf the net or text or tweet or work out at the gym as part of their 2010 resolution.
Or maybe – just maybe – they were doing all of those things at the same time. We are after all a multi-tasking society of obese consumers who love to watch train wrecks and be the first to break news (General Larry Platt).
What does this say about me and the other 29,999,999 Americans who tuned in? I do not know.
For sure we love to be entertained. We love watching average young (and old) Americans singing their hearts out for a chance at fame? And we also love peeping on the delusional misfits. And we can’t wait to see what Simon is going to say or do next.
Meanwhile, just a few stations down the dial, the Public Broadcasting System has Alan Alda in an educational and intellectual discussion with scientists asking and attempting to answer the question: What is the nature of human uniqueness?
And for a moment I feel a twinge of guilt. Perhaps I should be watching PBS and supporting the cause. And then I realize that I am watching American Idol in pursuit of the answer to the same question.
Rock on General Larry Platt.
Recently our company was instrumental in the building and construction of a new sustainable retailer. This new building received a lot of local and trade media coverage; however, our involvement is getting overlooked. Is it too late for us to get a piece of the pie? If not, how should we approach the media?
By Jennifer Manocchio
While you might have missed some opportunities, it is not too late to get the media attention you deserve. Below are a few reactive and proactive steps you can take to ensure your company gets credit in the next media story.
1. Determine the Source: Read the stories already published by the media and see if you can determine where the communication breakdown is. Is the sustainable retailer’s spokesperson not mentioning your company? If you can identify the source and it is appropriate to contact this person, simple ask them to include your company in his or her talking points next time. It probably wasn’t intentional and was simply an oversight.
2. Contact the media who already wrote stories: Simply requesting the media contact make a correction to their story isn’t going to help your cause very much. Corrections tend to be small and overlooked. Rather, read each story that was published and determine a different angle to pitch or a follow up story for the same media contact. Since they already covered the story, you will know they consider it news. Your pitch just has to be compelling enough to get the media contact interested a second time.
3. Develop your own pitch: Be proactive and develop your own case studies, pitches, news releases, etc. and distribute to media who haven’t covered the story. Consider horizontal and vertical media. Simply because it is a retail story doesn’t mean other vertical media will not be interested.
Want to learn more about achieving quality media coverage, contact me at 910.772.1688 or jennifer at sweeneypr.com.
From powder to liquid, concentrated liquid, sheets and packets, laundry detergent continues to evolve. The focus on sustainability is what seems to be driving this evolution and likely Walmart is behind most of this. And while the benefit of sustainability alone is not enough for the majority of consumers to make the switch, not having to lug or store big old jugs will.
Method – Detergent in Pump Bottle
Just this week Method launched what it claims to be the world’s smartest laundry detergent: method laundry detergent with smartclean technology. According to Methodlaundry.com, the patent-pending formula allows more of the cleaning agents to be used, which allows consumers to use significantly less detergent compared to national brands.
What is most interesting about this new product is that it features a unique pump bottle. You simply pump the bottle four times per load of laundry. Every bottle equals 50 loads of laundry.
In addition to reducing packaging and the weight of the product, the formula is plant-based and uses 95% natural and renewable ingredients according to Methodlaundry.com.
Purex – 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets
Today, I was looking through the FSIs from Sunday’s paper (yeah.. I’m a bit behind) and noticed a coupon for Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets. The sheet is a detergent and softener and also eliminates static. You simply put the sheet into the washer and transfer it to the dryer with your clothes. How easy is that!
The sustainable benefits of this product are it reduces plastic in the landfills and because it weighs less than liquid detergent it requires less fuel to ship, reducing the carbon footprint.
Since I’m still trying to get through my big ol’ jug of laundry detergent from Sam’s (which is concentrated), I haven’t had an opportunity to try any of these new detergents. If you have, leave a comment with your experience.
2009 was all about transparency – open communications and honest relationships. No more secrets in a world of social media; give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. After all, the truth will set us free.
Maybe not so much.
I read this morning in the Wall Street Journal that the new president of Procter & Gamble plans to introduce 30% more new products this year than last. That sounds like a lot to me; then I realized I don’t know how many new products they launched last year, so…
Anyway, the story goes on to say “Among the planned introductions is a body wash that purports to fight wrinkles. P&G will roll out the product officially next month, adding it to Olay’s Total Effects line of anti-aging face creams.” P&G says it plans to promote the new body wash with print ads in the February and March issues of women’s beauty and health magazines, as well as TV spots, betting that vanity will overcome the appeal of saving money. That sounds like a lot of marketing support to me; then I realized the Olay spokeswoman declined to say how much the company is spending on the campaign, so…
But I was intrigued about the new product. I mean of all the products in the P&G stable, why is this one so important? According to the WSJ story, the ads for the new body wash stress seven anti-aging claims, including that it improves skin elasticity, brightens dull skin and minimizes the appearance of dry lines. In other words, it helps consumers appear to look different from the way they really should look. Virginia Drosos, the company’s president of global female beauty and grooming, says all Olay ads use the tagline, “Love the skin you’re in.” This sounds good until you realize that the products are designed to alter the skin you are in, which is the skin you theoretically love, so…
Still, you have to tip your hat to the experts at P&G who always seem to know exactly what consumers want. Then I read this assessment from Candace Corlett, president of consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, explaining why finding fresh applications for existing brands is a strategy that risks confusing consumers. “When presented with so many choices, it’s hard to understand why one is different than the other,” says Corlett. “Or [shoppers] get to the shelf after they saw an Olay ad for a product, but can’t remember exactly which one it was.”
So, welcome to 2010, the year after the year of transparency, and the year I plan to refer to as the year of translucency, because I think it is a more transparent description.
How can I effectively measure the results of a consumer product email marketing campaign?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Prior to starting your email marketing campaign, set specific and measurable objectives. For most consumer packaged goods companies, email marketing objectives often include: increasing company/product awareness, increasing web site traffic, and increasing product trial and sales among current and prospective customers.
Once you set specific objectives, determine the most effective methods for tracking the results. Ideally, you want to accomplish this prior to beginning your campaign so measurement opportunities are not overlooked. Below are some key methods for tracking results.
1. Email distribution service: Using an email distribution service like iContact, Constant Contact, JangoMail, etc. will not only help you follow spam laws and protect your ISP, but it will also help track results. Typically, email distribution services will track the delivery rate, open rate, bounce rate and click through rate.
2. Google Analytics or another web site tracking tool: While this might seem obvious, we find this measurement tool is often overlooked. Google Analytics is free and easy to use and install if you don’t already have it. It can help track the number of people who came to your web site directly from the email, as well as how long they stayed on the site, what pages they visited, where they exited the site, if they converted to a sale and how much money they spent.
3. Unique phone number: If you can accept phone orders, it is beneficial to use a unique toll-free number in the email. This will allow you can track the number of phone calls the email is generating. Be sure to contact your phone company to determine if they have an online system that tracks the number of incoming calls. Reviewing phone bills can be tedious.
4. Unique promotional code: If you are offering a promotion, use a unique promotional code for web and phone orders. This will help you track what sales were specifically generated from the email.
After you establish your measurement methods, create a master database to record all the results in one location, including: open rates, click through rates, bounce rates, web site traffic, number of sales and total revenue generated by the email. This will help you to evaluate each email distribution and the campaign collectively and make adjustments when necessary.
Have questions about tracking the results and increasing the ROI of your email marketing campaign or want to learn more about how to develop and execute an effective campaign, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
I sometimes brainstorm about the next greatest advancements in technology. Internet in the car was something I considered a real possibility, but I just didn’t realize the advancement would come so soon.
This week at the Consumer Electronics Show a number of car manufacturers are showing off their dashboards equipped with the Internet. Sounds pretty cool, but what about the safety issue? With local governments just starting to make roads safer by reducing the use of cell phones and texting, how will they regulate using the Internet in the car?
As an iPhone addict, I cannot tell you how helpful the iPhone has been in the car when needing directions or calling in a take out order. But it also has the potential to be very dangerous. I’m constantly holding myself back from checking email, Facebook and the weather at red lights. It would be even harder for me to ignore Internet on the dashboard!
While the car manufacturers are incorporating some restrictions of use while driving, the risk is still very high. And it doesn’t seem like it will stop with the Internet. A Ford executive was quoted in a recent New York Times article as saying “We are trying to make that driving experience one that is very engaging,” said Jim Buczkowski, the director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering at Ford. “We also want to make sure it is safer and safer. It is part of what our DNA will be going forward.”
Making driving engaging? Isn’t watching the road, checking the stations on satellite radio, talking on your cell, putting on make-up, filing your nails, eating, reading a book, watching a movie, and checking your GPS system engaging enough? When will it stop?