Blogging With Integrity is more important than ever

Way back in 2009 British Mummy Bloggers started the Blogging With Integrity campaign, to encourage mum bloggers to be above-board and transparent in all their dealings with sponsors. At that time in America, the Federal Trade Commission was getting involved in regulating blogs’ sponsorship relationships, and our hope was that this voluntary program would avoid the back-tracking and PR blackouts that were going on in the States.

Now, recent action by the UK’s Office to Fair Trading demonstrates that Blogging With Integrity is more relevant than ever. The OFT has required a network of blogs to clearly identify promotional and sponsored content. It states that not disclosing paid-for promotional content – on a blog or microblog like Twitter – constitutes deceptive practice under fair trading laws. And this wasn’t some little network you’ve never heard of. This was Handpicked Media, one of the most visible blogging networks, best known for its focus on fashion and beauty.


Here’s what the OFT says:

Through the signed undertakings, [Handpicked Media] has agreed not to engage in promotional activity unless bloggers within its network prominently disclose, in a manner unavoidable to the average consumer, that the promotion has been paid for or otherwise remunerated.

Read the full OFT press release.

“Unavoidable to the average consumer” is pretty clear. If you have received a product and written about it, gone on a free trip, or received remuneration of any kind to write about something, then it needs to be crystal clear upfront to anybody who comes across your blog.

There’s never a better time to sign up to or reinvigorate your commitment to disclosure.

Here’s how to blog with integrity:

  • Make transparent any relationships with products or companies. Eg: If you have received a product for free to review, make sure that’s mentioned in the review. If you have an ongoing relationship with a sponsor, be clear about it, describing it in a post or disclosure page and linking back to it in related posts.
  • Clearly label advertising, advertorials and/or sponsored posts.
  • Always write truthfully about a product or company.
  • Observe intellectual property rights.

Here’s how some BMB members have told their readers about their sponsor relationships:

A visit to Disneyland Paris

Become KODAK’s ‘Photo Book Family’ plus an exclusive 2 for 1 Photo Book Voucher

Top Christmas gifts for Girls from Next

DO YOU HAVE ONE OR TWO MORE EXAMPLES?

Tell us how you write about products or companies in a clear and fair way – how you blog with integrity.

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About Jennifer Howze

Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at Jenography.net, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, CNN.com, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.

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14 Responses to Blogging With Integrity is more important than ever

  1. A Modern Mother 20 December 2010 at 09:16 #

    I know that magazine/print journalists have been accepting freebies forever, and they have their own code of ethics. Bloggers are popular because of their candid opinions — which makes it even more important to disclose any relationships upfront.

  2. Liz (LivingwithKids) 20 December 2010 at 11:35 #

    I’m still not really clear on the ‘sponsored tweet’ thing. Because if you put into a tweet that it was being ‘sponsored’ by Acme or whoever that would use up a lot of characters, and also it might actually get you banned from Twitter. Can anyone explain this one to me?

  3. A Modern Mother 20 December 2010 at 11:42 #

    The sponsored tweet is still being heavily debated, and I’ve seen several suggestions for shortened hashtags that signify a sponsored post (or if the tweeter is a company employee, stakeholder, has accepted payment for tweeting, has accepted free product, etc. When (if?) this gets resolved, we will shall add them to our integrity campaign.

  4. Becca Evans 20 December 2010 at 13:54 #

    I always put mine in the body of the post, (ie. I was thrilled to be sent a sample to try…) if I’ve received an item for review. I only put ‘Sponsored post’ at the end if I’ve been paid to write a piece.
    Is this right?
    I never put it in my tweets when I’m pimping my posts. I’ve never thought to do that. I thought it stating it in the post was good enough? Have I go the wrong idea?
    Becca

  5. A Modern Mother 20 December 2010 at 15:26 #

    How you disclose is up to you, we are all In new territory and learning as we go. I used to dislcose at the end of my posts, but then had several comments that people preferred to know upfront, rather than after they had invested time and read the entire post. One reader said she felt “duped”. As I commented to Liz, the subject of sponsored tweets is still being heavily debated, watch this space.

  6. Liz (LivingwithKids) 20 December 2010 at 18:59 #

    It will be very interesting to see how it all develops.

  7. Michelle Twin Mum 20 December 2010 at 23:54 #

    Given all the interest in this recently. I have decided to be even more upfront with my readers as I have come to realsie that non bloggers have no real idea what a sponsored post is. So here is my most recent piece of paid for writing snd how I declared it
    http://mdplife.blogspot.com/2010/12/superb-opportunity-for-community-group.html
    Mich x

  8. Simone 21 December 2010 at 09:54 #

    I had a freebie from green and black, sponsor declared at bottom of the blog.
    http://fromrattopositiveparent.blogspot.com/2010/02/chocolat-sans-frontieres.html
    And this is a product review for a kid toothpaste and cream for mummy (I did say at the start they sent these samples)
    http://fromrattopositiveparent.blogspot.com/2010/04/is-it-worth-paying-more-for-organic.html

  9. Karin @ Cafe Bebe 21 December 2010 at 11:57 #

    I think the whole subject of Sponsored Tweets will be a tricky one. Unless the Gods of Twitter come up with a hashtag that is universally understood as “Sponsored Tweet” then there’s going to be variation from everyone. Maybe BMB needs to come up with its own hashtag? But as not all parent bloggers are members of BMB maybe that won’t work?? Interesting for certain!
    🙂 Karin

  10. Liz (LivingwithKids) 22 December 2010 at 09:09 #

    I’ve been thinking about this actually this morning after reading the post on Bloggered which is suggesting five badges.
    What every blogger needs to remember of course is that whatever you put on your blog that you’ve received in sponsorship, payment etc will have to be declared to the tax man if it takes you over the tax threshold. I declare any fees I get for blogging to the HMRC, but I wonder how many bloggers out there are taking a head in the sand approach to this aspect of blogging and imagine that anything they’re paid for is cash in hand that doesn’t need to be declared? Because the minute you start declaring everything on your blog, it’s out there in the public domain and you could find yourself liable for tax if your ‘earnings’ take you over the personal tax threshold. Everyone needs to be aware of this, I think.

  11. Karen@therubbishdiet 22 December 2010 at 10:06 #

    This is great, thank you. I don’t normally write sponsored posts, but today I’ve published one where the sponsor donated the funds directly to a fundraising appeal. I’ve put the statement in at the end: http://therubbishdiet.blogspot.com/2010/12/ring-in-cash-with-your-old-phone.html

  12. A Modern Mother 22 December 2010 at 17:17 #

    The whole point is to be above board, and yes do declare any earnings, no matter how small. The amount that I make “blogging” is relatively small compared to my marketing consulting work, but I do add it in. This should not be a factor in disclosure. We as a group need to get a handle on this and do it or we will not be seen as credible.

  13. Ruth 23 December 2010 at 13:39 #

    CMP.LY is a free and simple disclosure service for bloggers and tweeters. The CMP.LY codes are short urls that fit in tweets and blogs with less than 15 charaters for full disclousre and transparncy.
    For more information, go to the CNN Money article on Dec 1, 2010:
    http://money.cnn.com/2010/12/01/technology/paid_blogger_disclosure/index.htm?source=yahoo_quote
    and of course my disclosure:
    http://www.cmp.ly/4/gropz5

  14. Becca Evans 28 December 2010 at 07:15 #

    I totally agree with this and it’s something that I’m not very good at.
    I didn’t do much accounting within my business qualification and it wasn’t my forte.
    And so I’ve adopted Sage. I’ll be setting it all up in the new year and ringing the Tax Office to fill them in. I’ll be receiving my first payout from both Glam and eBuzzing in January and I want it all to be above board.
    So many of us are getting ourselves in the media etc. these days and I don’t think it will be long before someone trips up, perhaps through simply not realising. I guess this is why these discussion topics are so important.
    I pay for a lot of my bits/comps myself and always say when I get something to review but I wouldn’t necessarily class that as payment? Is this wrong?
    Becca