Ann Taylor Loft recently issued an invitation to bloggers to preview the retailer’s summer collection, rewarding bloggers who posted about the new line by including them in a gift card drawing. Was Ann Taylor Loft in compliance with the new FTC blogger regulations?
Kayleigh Fitch, blogger relations expert
The short answer is “no”, and there are several reasons why.
First, according to Jezebel, a blog that was invited to participate in the campaign but declined, almost none of the bloggers participating in the campaign disclosed to readers that they would receive the chance to win a high value gift card after submitting their review to Ann Taylor’s publicist.
Whether or not a blogger discloses a material relationship with a company when posting a review, it is ultimately the company’s responsibility to ensure that proper disclosure takes place under new FTC regulations. Ann Taylor should have included a reminder in their invitation to disclose to readers they had received a gift card after submitting their review. Furthermore, it was Ann Taylor’s responsibility to continue to follow up with bloggers until all disclosures had been made.
Additionally, the fact that blogger reviews were submitted to a publicist before gift card values were revealed to participating bloggers could indicate that Ann Taylor rewarded bloggers according to how positive individual reviews were.
When a company commits to a campaign that invites bloggers to review its products, it automatically surrenders any right to control messaging about its product. Marketers should not attempt to stifle or hide negative blogger feedback. Instead, they should welcome such feedback as an opportunity to make product improvements. If a blogger points out an issue with a product, it is likely other consumers will face the same issue. If handled properly, a negative review can become an opportunity for a marketer to continue a public conversation with consumers, showcasing a commitment to customer satisfaction.
Ultimately, it is not illegal to provide payment or some other form of compensation to bloggers who review your products. However, the new FTC guidelines emphasize the importance of transparency in blogger relations and particularly during product review campaigns. And while the responsibility to disclose rests on the blogger, it is the marketer’s responsibility to ensure bloggers are doing so, regardless of how much nudging that takes.
To ensure your blogger relations efforts are in compliance with he new FTC guidelines, check out our recent post, The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations, to get caught up on the changes.
Want to implement a blogger relations campaign or have questions about the FTC guidelines as they relate to social media marketing, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.