The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) shares their Code of Ethics which their members must follow and many others turn to with ethical dilemmas. One aspect that the code of ethics focuses on is disclosure of information. This means one should always reveal any information that the public should know but would not get from what is given to them already. Do not hold back what is to be said. Be honest with the readers and, reveal sponsors, and say those who are helping out financially.
Many times publishers and bloggers are paid with money or free products in order to endorse or write a positive review or article about a brand. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines that bloggers and publishers, anyone with the possible need to disclose information, has to follow.
Putting the focus on a blogger, he or she must provide all information about the product. Any claims that could be misleading with information being held back must be disclosed. Disclosures are there to take away any misleading impressions that can be given to the public.
Claims are not meant to be misleading or deceptive. They should be clear and conspicuous. Any disclosure that is needed for a claim should be placed right after so the consumer understands what it is about.
The FTC recently investigated the company Hyundai for not disclosing information. Hyundai’s marketing agency gave bloggers gift certificates to those who would put links or videos related to Hyundai as well as comment on the Super Bowl advertisements that were released around that time. This goes against section 5 of the FTC Act, which states that full disclosure of material between an advertiser and its endorser is needed when the public would not know otherwise. The investigation was closed and and Hyundai was not held responsible. The letter from the FTC on the Hyundai investigation can be seen here.
The reasons for this decision are as follows:
* Hyundai did not know about these incentives being given out
- A small amount of bloggers received gift certificates
- Some bloggers did in fact disclose the information
*This was not done by Hyundai employees but by a person in a media firm hired by Hyundai
- Although a brand is usually responsible for those they hire, it goes against Hyundai’s media policy and media action was taken to address the incident afterwards
With new ways of advertising and endorsement, brands need to make sure they are following ethical standards. It is the responsibility of a brand to know that those it gives gifts to write about their products or events disclose that information to the public. It is also the brands responsibility to go about this in an ethical way. The brand knows whether or not it is being “sketchy” with its endorsement. It is their responsibility to advertise ethically. A blogger may not know the rules and codes of blogging. However, in my opinion, if a blogger is asked to endorse a product he or she should look up how to do it correctly and ethically.
The FTC did not think that Hyundai was responsible for the disclosure mishap. I have mixed feelings about this because normally a brand should know whom it hires and what they are doing, however Hyundai did handle the issue well and it went against their codes. The person working for the media firm did not follow ethical codes and caused a problem for the company he or she worked for as well as Hyundai. This person should definitely be fired and I do believe that action was taken.
If you have your own opinions on this investigation or the actions taken here please leave a comment below!