Ethical standards set for marketers who use blogs
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has published a draft of its new 'Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines', which give marketers a ten-point checklist for ethical and appropriate corporate behaviour when they deal with bloggers.
To fine-tune the guidelines, the association is also now asking for feedback and revisions from marketers and the blogging community alike. According to WOMMA's CEO, Andy Sernovitz, "It is vital that marketers understand the rules of the road when communicating with bloggers."
Open, honest, ethical Indeed, when companies engage with blogs, they tend to be more open, transparent, and accountable. But there is room to go astray, whether through corporate policy or employees making unofficial posts and replies on behalf of their company. The new guidelines were set out to ensure that marketers who want to participate constructively in blog conversations can decide if and when it's appropriate to do so, and then to do it ethically, honestly, respectfully, and with good taste.
Sernovitz told The Wise Marketer that the new document applies specifically to marketers. It does not cover "how to blog" or rules for internal blogs - it's purely about participating in externally operated blogs.
WOMMA asserts that companies adopting the ethical guidelines for blog discussions will be more quickly able to identify problems within existing communications, and be more certain that communications with bloggers are ethically sound.
Adopting the ethical approach The checklist is simple enough to use. First, the marketing department needs to provide a copy of the Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines document (along with a copy of the more general WOMMA Ethics Code) to all personnel who read, write, or comment on blogs. Before each blog post is made, each of the ten principles is to be checked. Finally, the marketing team will need a blog monitoring programme in place to check that the guidelines are being followed faithfully.
The objectives of the guidelines, as stated by WOMMA, are also simple:
- To help marketers work honestly and ethically within the blogosphere;
- To promote disclosure by marketers within blogs;
- To protect consumers by establishing ethical standards for marketing to and within blogs;
- To protect companies' reputations from the damage that unethical behaviour inevitably causes.
The ten proposed principles The ten proposed principles of blogging ethics are:
- I will always be truthful and will never knowingly relay false information. I will never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me.
- I will fully disclose who I am and who I work for (my identity and affiliations) from the very first encounter when communicating with bloggers or commenting on blogs.
- I will never take action contrary to the boundaries set by bloggers. I will respect all community guidelines regarding posting messages and comments.
- I will never ask bloggers to lie for me.
- I will use extreme care when communicating with minors or blogs intended to be read by minors.
- I will not manipulate advertising or affiliate programmes to impact blogger income.
- I will not use automated systems for posting comments or distributing information.
- I understand that compensating bloggers may give the appearance of a conflict of interest, and I will therefore fully disclose any and all compensation or incentives.
- I understand that if I send bloggers products for review, they are not obligated to comment on them. Bloggers can return products at their own discretion.
- If bloggers write about products I send them, I will proactively ask them to disclose the products' source.
To comment on these guidelines and help WOMMA to develop them further, click here.