I want to start off by saying that (a) I am not a lawyer and (b) this article is not intended to be construed as legal advice. It is strongly urged that you consult with your own legal counsel prior to development and/or implementing disclosure guidelines for your business.

In October of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a list of guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. The guidelines went into effect on December 1, 2009. The intent was to update the previously issued guidelines (circa 1980) with information consistent with today’s ever increasing use of social media for advertising and marketing.

Despite the “noise” about silencing free speech, relationships between advertisers and endorsers have always had to be disclosed. The goal was to have a level playing field so that consumers could make wise decisions about product purchases in a transparent environment. As more and more consumers turned to internet research prior to making a purchase, it was necessary for the FTC to revise their examples accordingly.

I’ve read the guidelines, the applicable Code of Federal Regulations (16 CFR 255), and the underlying US Code (15 USC 45). Additionally, the FTC has provided a series of excellent guides describing answers to frequently asked questions.

Based on everything I’ve read, here is the approach I’m taking with each article written by me for either this site or my personal blog.

Flow chart for FTC Disclosure Decisions

Flowchart. Click to Enlarge

If a disclosure is needed, the FTC is straightforward as to the contents and format. Any disclosure must be prominent, clear and concise. Here are some examples I’m considering:

  • XYZ Company gave me this software at no charge to try. I am not employed directly or indirectly by XYZ Company.
  • XYZ Company stated they would give me a free software license if I try their program and wrote a review. I am not employed directly or indirectly by XYZ Company.
  • ABC Publishers provided this book at no cost to me to read and to post a review. I am not an author for ABC Publishers nor am I employed directly or indirectly by ABC Publishers.

In closing, do your own research and discuss with your legal counsel as appropriate. While you’re welcome to use the material I’m providing, I strongly urge you to make sure that it is right for you and  your business.