Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bloggers must be more honest...YEA!

Thank you, FTC! The Federal Trade Commission has issued new guidance regarding endorsements...which now also applies to bloggers.

In radio, we as air talent have been given "considerations" for doing commercials and/or endorsements...whether it be in the form of paid compensation, or services, or products. The only time I've had a problem with that was when the person speaking on behalf of the product was lying. And that can happen in various forms: "...I love it...I use it everyday...I wouldn't use anything else..." When I represented, or presented, products...if I said I liked them, it was because I did. If I could not endorse the product, I just performed a commercial announcement. (And, that includes radiothons and telethons: to work for one, I had to believe in the charity or cause.)

I've worked for program directors who told us, the air talent, that we were to present every song we play as a great song: "We only play the BEST music". (According to who?) It's called a "postioning statement", and the strategy is that if it is repeated enough maybe the audience will believe that it is true. (Yeah...right.) There are all kinds of reasons for playing a song, and it isn't always because the song has any redeeming artistic value or that the audience of that particular radio station likes it.

I hosted, and programmed the music for, a "jazz" show. And for which I was on a national music reporting panel for Radio & Records, a trade magazine. I reported on the songs and artists that I played, and how often I played them. I tried to listen to every piece of music that was sent to me. At the time there was a George Benson album that Warner Brothers was trying to promote heavily. All of the other radio stations and shows across the country were reporting it as "hot" (it was in very high rotation on-air); I reported it as low...because I was only playing one track off of the entire CD. After listening to the album, I decided that there was other (new) music that deserved more airtime on my show because they had more music of the quality that my audience preferred. I chose to serve and be responsible to my audience, on the radio station I was on, and in the city I was in. A vice-president of Warner Brothers called and said to me, how could I consider that I knew better than all of the other programmers across the nation? I was removed from the music reporting panel a few weeks later...and a lot of record companies, who had been begging for me to listen to and play their music, stopped sending it to me.

Bloggers can be considered to be “word-of-mouth” marketers. Now, any blogger who makes an endorsement must disclose material connections they may have with the product or service. And I'm all for it...

I believe that there are products that I have not had opportunities to review because there are other bloggers (and members of the media) who appear to give "consistent" positive reviews. I have compared some of my reviews of products to those of others, and I wonder why they never noted things I did. And, I seem to find a lot of reviews that all seem (too much) alike. Others appear to just be "puff pieces". Some of them make me wonder if they even opened the package and tried the product...

Of the products I have "reviewed" and tested, NEVER was I ever instructed by those who provided it to give ONLY a positive report. It was never implied nor expected that I would. If I found that my experience with a product was negative, I might contact the manufacturer to see if there's something wrong with the item...or if they can give me a reason to reconsider my opinion. Sometimes I can just give a technical report based on specifications. And, there have been times when I felt I was not the best candidate to do the review (and I might refer them to someone else).

Manufacturers and marketers should also remember: if I have not had exposure to your product, there is a chance that I have been exposed to products of your competitors. And so have other potential customers that you may have lost access to.

I'm just sayin'...
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