Disclosure and Compliance Made Easy

On December 1, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission began requiring bloggers and social media gurus to make full disclosure statements. This was done to “protect consumers from potentially misleading information.” Many of us in the blogosphere had been doing this for quite some time, as we believe in transparency. I know that I personally have always tried to be as up-front as possible when it comes to my sponsors and products I have received as review units. The same holds true for many of the people in my “circle” – as well as those whose blogs I follow.

It was pretty shocking to read all of the headlines surrounding this mandate. For those of us who were already practicing full disclosure, it was as though we were being slapped in the face. It almost seemed as though people who follow us were suddenly wondering if each of us has been getting something for nothing, or trying to “dupe” our communities. Bloggers who have worked hard for years were suddenly being scrutinized. Social Media mavens had their every tweet examined by people looking to point fingers. It was an intense time in the communities I belong to.

Even though much of the finger-pointing and name-calling has died down, we still have the FTC standard to uphold. Even though we may have already been following the guidelines, we still catch ourselves wondering if we’re doing it right. Did I put the proper wording in that last post? Did my tweet include all of the hashtags it should have? Am I being 100% transparent and open in the eyes of the government?

*Photo art courtesy of Jeannine Schafer*

If you’re one of those people who are unsure and want to have your confidence bolstered in this area, I highly suggest you check out CMP.ly. This company in no way sponsored this post – or anything else, for that matter. I met the company CEO at SXSW in March via my friend Jenn, and he graciously agreed to a video interview. However, due to some technical difficulty with Ustream, the recording didn’t save out properly. The service is such a potential godsend for some people that I wanted to spread the word however I could.

CMP.ly helps you comply with the FTC guidelines by making it simple to disclose things. There are solutions for bloggers, brands, agencies and even affiliate marketers. The company has “created a set of easily identifiable disclosures and codes that can be used to identify any material connections in your blog posts, tweets or other communications. These disclosures give you flexible options and provide you with both short codes and full text disclosures that can be included in your posts.”

Not only does the service make it easier for you to manage your disclosure, it also works across nearly all mediums you might need. Use them on posts, in tweets or via SMS messages. One cool highlight is that your disclosures will stay intact when in RSS syndication or when spread via a re-tweet. This makes it easier to keep track of than a hashtag on Twitter – or via a keyword in your blog.

There are seven levels of disclosure listed on the CMP.ly site. Each of the levels is clearly defined so that you can figure out where your post or message may fit in.

  • CMP.ly/0 – No Connection, Unpaid, Your Own Opinions – This level indicates that you have not received any compensation for writing a piece of content and you have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned therein.
  • CMP.ly/1 – Based Upon a Review Copy – You have a material connection because you received a review copy (book, CD, software, etc.), or an item of nominal value that you can keep for consideration in preparing to write your content.
  • CMP.ly/2 – Given a Sample – You have a material connection because you received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write your content. You were/are not expected to return this item or gift after the review period.
  • CMP.ly/3 – Paid Post – You have a material connection because you received a cash payment, gift or item of nominal value from a company affiliated with a brand, topic and/or product that is mentioned therein.
  • CMP.ly/4 – Employee/Shareholder/Business Relationship – You have a direct relationship with a brand, topic or product that is mentioned therein. Details of this material connection or relationship are outlined in the custom disclosure fields.
  • CMP.ly/5 – Affiliate Marketing Links – You have a marketing connection to a brand, topic or product. Through the use of affiliate links contained in your material, you may collect fees from purchases made.
  • CMP.ly/6 – Custom Disclosure – You have a direct relationship with a brand, topic or product that is mentioned in your writing. Details of this material connection or relationship are outlined in the custom disclosure fields.

Whether you agree with what the FTC wants us to do or not, the fact remains that you honestly don’t have much of a choice. Personally, I don’t understand why someone would not want to be transparent and honest with their audience. Then again, I’m not inside of their mind or conscience. At the end of every day (and every post I write), I know that I have done my best to CMP.ly.

Have you?