Thinking Out Loud v14 — Responsibility

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve linked up with Amanda at Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud Thursday. Naturally that means I’ve been thinking… Thinking-Out-Loud2

Recently this article came to my attention in one of my community groups. If you don’t want to click the link it is basically about how Lord & Taylor provided a designer dress to 50 bloggers (I won’t even get into the lack of diversity on that one, that’s another topic for another day) as part of a Instagram based campaign. It was a clever idea and I’ve heard the dress has since sold out so definitely mission accomplished. 

Following this highly successful campaign came a decent amount of backlash though. As it turns out none of the bloggers disclosed the post as sponsored, violating numerous FTC guidelines. Some of the posts have now been edited to include #ad or #sponsored but according to the article they originally did not. This situation and some other recent happenings in the blogging world have had me thinking about the notion of responsibility. Responsibility marontherun.com

We as bloggers have every right to post or write what we want. We have choices in the groups we join, the brands we work with, whether to self host, monetize, blog daily or weekly, and I could go on. There isn’t some governing body out there regulating what we do (FTC guidelines notwithstanding). It’s as easy as setting up WordPress and just typing. However, as much as we have the right to blog with it comes a certain level of responsibility

Disclaimers…

First and foremost bloggers should offer a standard disclaimer stating your level of experience, expertise or lack thereof. A typical disclaimer (in the fitness blogging world) states you are not a doctor or licensed professional – unless of course, you are! Even still you should note that opinions expressed on the site are just that and suggest you consult a medical professional before engaging in any kind of activity or health plan. People who read blogs or visit various sites sometimes do so assuming the information they are reading is factual or accurate. It is your responsibility to be as up front with them as possible about the limits of your site and the information contained. It is the readers choice and responsibility to accept and understand that and engage.

There are bloggers out there who brag on healthy living and are very clearly not living the healthy lifestyle for one reason or another. I have removed plenty of these kinds of bloggers from my reader for this reason. Maybe the blog is their escape, form of therapy or they’re in denial. While you don’t owe me explicit details on your life, if you are going to promote certain products or ideals, give advice, guidance or tips – whether researched or unfounded – then practicing what you preach is a good start. Life can be challenging for anyone and no one out there is perfect but show some authenticity by not being something you aren’t. 

Disclosure…

Unlike what happened with the Lord & Taylor campaign it is the responsibility of the blogger to disclose when they’ve received free product, compensation or have posted affiliate links. Period. And it doesn’t just refer to the blog but on all social media channels. There should be no debate about this and simply saying “I didn’t know” isn’t being responsible. Another point is where to place the disclosure. It should be placed at the top or as close to the product/brand you are referring to as possible. If you agreed to represent a brand or company it is up to them to tell you what they want and need but it’s up to you as well to find out. Moliere marontherun.com

When I read and reviewed Meb’s book last week something that stuck with me was when he said as runners we should be students of the sport – always learning. I think the same applies to blogging. Not matter how involved you want your blog to become, whether free or self hosted, you should learn the ins and outs of it (or at least the basics). I’m not suggesting spending hours blogging, becoming versed in HTML or paying hundreds of dollars on blogging conferences or programs. There are plenty of free resources online or hit up your fellow bloggers for guidance!  It can only help you in the long run.

Don’t Steal…

This shouldn’t need any explanation but sadly it does. I’ve witnessed and heard of bloggers having their content lifted word for word whether in whole or in part. You have to be careful with photos you find online as well. Just earlier this week I had a website reblog one of my posts adding there own spin on it to make it work for them. The good news is they linked back to me and tagged me on social media. I replied to them that while I appreciated the shout out, my permission was not sought beforehand and they took it down. That works 9 times of out 10 but the blogging community while it may seem large isn’t all that large and people notice these things. Be original. And if you struggle to come up with your own consistent content, perhaps you shouldn’t be blogging at all. copyright marontherun.com

Most bloggers start a blog to share a love of (insert hobby here) and not necessarily for the purpose of making money or to become rich and famous (snicker). I am one who enjoys running, racing and talking about it. I’m certainly no “expert” runner, RRCA certification or not but I love to engage in conversation about it. I don’t use this space to discuss details of my work or family life but do infuse some of my personal adventures into it. One could argue that “it’s my blog” and “I’m not forcing anyone to read it”. None of this is an excuse to be irresponsible. 

In the end you as a reader have the power to decide what blogs or websites you want to read and what information you will take to heart; and I will do my best to be honest and responsible with the content I present. I can only hope other bloggers will too. 

What do you think of the Lord & Taylor nondisclosure? How responsible do think bloggers are for the content they provide? 

52 Comments on Thinking Out Loud v14 — Responsibility

  1. Great topic! The L&T issue is so annoying because they know better! I’m sure they thought the posts would have more impact without the disclosure, but that’s the whole point of the FTC disclosure requirements. For better or worse, I don’t think the FTC has the resources to go after bloggers (is that where you want your tax dollars going anyway?) so it’s up to us as bloggers to police ourselves and as consumer to stop reading/following/liking when people aren’t honest.

    Another gripe I have on this topic is certain marketing companies that ask bloggers to put the disclosure at the end of their posts. The FTC guidelines say it should be up front, before any links to the sponsor’s websites.

    • I know I really think all parties involved in that knew better! And you’re right, we need to police ourselves because it’s not an overall regulating body that’s going to do it.

  2. Great post!

    I never thought about a disclaimer component. Will work on that today.

    Thanks.

  3. It is the responsibility of both the blogger and the reader to take responsibility for themselves. For bloggers, honesty is key. If you’ve received something for free or are being paid, that needs to be disclosed. If you’re a reader and you notice something suspicious, then action needs to be taken, even something as simple as alerting the blogger.

  4. great post! i had not heard about that lord and taylor mishap, oh my! it is disappointing when folks skirt their responsibility but i’m encouraged by the rest of us 🙂 i HATE reading sponsored posts that don’t disclose. ughhhhhhhhh!

  5. Great post! Sometimes people don’t know all the disclosure things when they first start blogging but it’s at least important to mention if you were sent something complimentary!

    • Yeah they don’t and that’s where I refer to as being responsible. Saying I didn’t know isn’t enough anymore. If you want to engage in this type of activity, you should take it upon yourself to inform yourself!

  6. Such a crucial post. And lots of food for thought within it. responsibility and original content/citing go without saying, so allow to gloss over that (you know my feelings re integrity). Disclosure is increasingly becoming a concern due to the new business of blogging. I sometimes find myself slipping up and forgetting when it comes to smaller things, but I think especially when you are provided a certain product (like a very specific dress) or are courted by a company, you should disclose that fact. I just mean that the language of your disclosure should be different than if you asked the Company. But disclosing is tricky—i often feel it can scare people away from a post that might not even really be about the product but rather is promoting an idea (like my Wal-Mart post where I then discussed accessible nutrition rather than just Wal-Mart). It’s tricky, but better safe than sorry.

    • Thanks, Suz! and yes I agree the business of blogging has become it’s own thing. I don’t know if time will cause it to be recognized as such and regulated more but it’s now an active industry. So interesting.

  7. Great post! I always add disclosures in my sponsored posts, but I tend to forget on social media. Thank you for the reminder!
    I also think it’s important as bloggers and influencers (yes, we are influencers no matter how big or small) to give our honest opinions when reviewing products/services and not just say it’s great because they paid you.

  8. This is really well timed, for me. I was thinking about a similar post. Yesterday, a blogger contacted me to tell me she thought my book club was such a good idea and did I mind if she started one too? What was I supposed to say? At least she asked, but seriously? Who does that? Can’t she come up with her own idea. This really bothered me. I don’t have ads on my blog, I do very few product reviews, so clearly I’m not in it for the $$. Her blog is really polished, tons of ads…

    Sigh. It’s a blog eat blog world out there. I’m just here for the connections. Silly, naive me.

  9. This is a great discussion to start! I typically put the disclosure at the top of my post now (I used to put it at the bottom), but some jobs ask for it at the bottom. Lately I’m getting very clear instructions about how to word it clearly from companies, which is good!

    Love thinking about this stuff – thanks for the food for thought today!
    The plagiarism that I was witness to recently was really disturbing and makes you wonder what on that person’s site is really their own words and what else they are stealing.

  10. It blows my mind that not one blogger out of 50 disclosed the origin of the dress. You’d think somebody would’ve known better. Blogging has changed SO much since I started in 2009. Not necessarily for the better.

    • they disclosed the origin, just not that they received it free and it was sponsored. I agree, some of the changes are not necessarily for the better… sadly.

  11. It’s really sad that you have to mention the “not stealing” thing, but it does happen. 🙁 I’ve been steering clear of all the Meb book reviews until I get mine written myself! Not because I would steal an idea (because duh…not my style), but I want to make sure I don’t get influenced by other opinions. (I’m excited to read your review BTW!)

    • it is sad, and even sadder it happened to me 3 days ago. I don’t get it – we’re blogging not saving lives. But it’s a weird world. Excited to read your recap!! I could only commit to one book and that was hard enough! lol.

  12. I think that when you sign up for a blog, there should be templates giving people some disclosure information and disclaimers. I think new bloggers struggle with this language.

  13. this is a great post! i had not heard about this L&T debacle until now but all of the points you make are so true! i dont mind sponsored posts as long as it is known up front. i think it is important not to let companies bully you over small things like saying it is sponsored or the placement of your words

    • thank you! I don’t mind them either but when I read and then get all the way to the bottom I get annoyed. Of course, now I can tell just by the title if a post is sponsored these days.

  14. Good info! I think often a lot of bloggers don’t know about all of this…at least not at the beginning because I sure did not. Well, everyone should know not steal…one would think anyways!

  15. I have had companies before email me and say can you take the #sponsored out of your Tweet it makes it sound less authentic. I am always floored by that.
    No I can’t! You paid me to do this, it is sponsored.

  16. Great post, Mar! I think honesty is SO important in the blogging world. Obviously bloggers don’t need to share every single detail of their lives, but they do need to show their readers respect and say when a post has been sponsored or when something has been received for free… as well as not trying to lead readers astray by providing false information. It’s really sad to see so much shady behaviour out there because it ruins things for the rest of us… Readers are starting to -hate- sponsored posts for no other reason than because they’re sponsored… and that mostly comes down to some bloggers going overboard with sponsored content. It’s awesome to be able to make money from blogging, but not so much when 90% of your content is sponsored…

    • completely agree Amanda! I do sponsored posts very little because even as a reader they turn me off when I see them so often on others posts. Thanks so much for the linkup!!

  17. Very interesting. Lots of things I haven’t really thought about as a hobbyist blogger (no ads, I don’t work with brands, I just like to document my training journey). Every review I’ve ever written has been about a product I’ve purchased for myself because I was interested in it. Haven’t thought about what I would do if someone contacted me or even to think about copyright issues. Clearly there is a lot of similar content out there…however the thought of outright taking content or someone using mine never occurred to me.

  18. All of this is SO important! We really do have responsibilities as bloggers. I didn’t know a lot of this when I first started but have been taking the initiative to educate myself with classes and research. There is so much more to blogging than people think!

    • completely agree! I didn’t know a lot of this either, I never started blogging for that purpose, but it’s good to be a sponge and just educate yourself.

  19. Great post! I do think its our responsibility to disclose and its a shame that campaign went on. I know that as a new blogger learning about this stuff was really difficult but definitely important.

    • agreed Jen!! We are responsible for making sure we are doing the right thing. We can’t always depend on someone else to tell us and even so it could be too late. I say learn all you can and keep learning 🙂

  20. Great post. I think as bloggers we need to find our own unique voice… because that is ultimately what readers/brands want to hear. If they wanted to read the press release or another bloggers words (copied/pasted) they would read there… not visit your site. :sigh: That being said. I think that bloggers are real people who have a passion for what they share… but they do need to be real and honest too. 🙂

  21. Definitely something a lot of bloggers need to read! I see a lot of undisclosed sponsored posts floating around. Or people blatantly disregarding contest and sponsored post guidelines on social media.
    Sometimes I want to shake them, not because it upsets me so much, but more because I don’t want to see other bloggers lose all their hard work from not following the rules you know?

  22. Very interesting post and good points brought up. I can’t believe L&T didn’t think about all that beforehand…and same with the bloggers. That is a pet peeve of mine…one specific blog comes to mind that rarely mentions if something was given to them for free or not…and yet they write about how it is their favorite item ever! (same description with every product they write about). Why be afraid to be honest with your readers? /endrant haha

  23. This is a huge topic to tackle. I always feel awful whenever I click on a tweet with a click bait title and realized it was a sponsored/pay per click tweet. People really need to disclose!

    • yeah that’s a shame. It’s not hard to do! I think people are afraid of the stigma it’ll create that they aren’t being authentic because it’s sponsored.

  24. Great topic! The part about the disclosure about information you’re providing gets me all of the time! I am a certified personal trainer (have been for 11 years) and a certified group fitness instructor (6 years) and have both a BS and MS in Exercise and Sport Science. This qualifies me to do a lot of information giving, but I even state that while the information I am giving is relevant, researched, and reliable, I’m still not working directly with you and you still have to proceed into things with caution. It annoys me that others are out there giving information that they know nothing about and misrepresent themselves as professionals.

    • there are definitely a lot out there giving information. I think if it’s researched and founded all the better. I’m less likely to do a workout I read online over the guidance of my personal trainer.

  25. Yea, so I think you know where I stand on this issue. I disclose at top and bottom of a sponsored post. But, more than that, I think it is important to disclose the “little things” along the way. Say, if you mention a product and you are an ambassador for the program, you should mention it. And, items received for free need to be noted. I also think that people need to remember that race entries are also something to disclose. I hate reading a post, knowing that an individual was comped arace entry and there is not a mention of it being comped! Peeves me for sure! It’s just an issue of being honest with your readers. End rant 😉

    • haha, I sure do! I have no issue with anyone doing what they gotta do to get paid but please be responsible in what you say and how you disclose. Period.

  26. I always wonder if FTC guidelines apply to non-US based bloggers? I’m Canadian and I have a hard time convincing the Canadian brands I work with that it does.

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