How To Write A Crystal Clear Post Disclosure
By: Chelsea Burcz

How To Write A Solid Blog Disclosure
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fashion blogging valentino

Recently, the topic of blogger transparency has become more of an issue as the fashion blogging community continues to grow.

But maybe instead of finger-pointing at bloggers who maybe-probably-could-be not disclosing sponsors or gifts, we here at IFB tried to tackle the issue with a different approach — by highlighting bloggers and campaigns that did it right, and showing exemplary practices that you can use as an outline for your own disclaimers.

First, what exactly is a disclosure?

A disclosure is the act of making something obvious. In other words, you are divulging the purpose and interests within a published post, whether it be written or otherwise.

By actively using disclosures, you maintain your freedom to write original content, but also maintain an ethical reputation with your readers by revealing whenever something is gifted, paid for, or sponsored. In the United States, there are currently FTC guidelines that state bloggers must disclose the following:

- When you receive a free product and review it
- When you link to the product’s website and receive a commission (called an affiliate program)
- When you receive money, product or services for posting about a product
- When you review a product or service that comes from an advertiser on your site

How does disclosure work? Well, for example, take a look at the Valentino all-red Rockstud shoes case study:

Recently, Valentino reached out to bloggers to show off his limited-edition (only 100 were made) all-red Rockstud kitten heels — as you can see below, here is how a handful of bloggers showed off their gift:

Grit & Glamour wrote: “The elegant house of Valentino gifted me with this extraordinary pair to celebrate the launch of the Valentino Shoe Room (aka your online Rockstud shopping Mecca). The site launches September 24, 2012—get clicking fast, and you could just snag a pair of these limited-edition, red-on-red Rockstud heels.”

Style Scrapbook wrote: “I came back home from London to find this incredible surprise waiting for me … HUGE THANKS to Valentino for my very own first Valentino shoes and to make it even more special, these are the red on red rockstud limited edition pieces, just in time for Paris Fashion Week. THANK YOU VALENTINO!

Sandra’s Closet wrote: “When I arrived at my house, a very special gift from Valentino waited for me that left me speechless: RED ON RED ROCKSTUD kitten heels designed by the house’s Creative Directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for the upcoming launch of the ultimate on-line shoe shopping experience, SHOE ROOM.”

Liberty London Girl wrote: “And these arrived this morning: maybe the best gift EVER. A pair of a limited edition of 100 Valentino red Rockstud heels to wear at Fashion Week.”

Atlantic Pacific wrote: “Top: Equipment (also buy here). Skirt: Zara (old but similar here and here). Purse: Celine. Shoes: Limited Edition Rockstuds thanks to Valentino. Necklace: Saks 5th (old). Sunglasses: Dior. Jewelry: David Yurman, Sorrelli c/o, Hermes, Jcrew, Pomellato.”

Shoe Snob wrote: “Valentino has dropped a bomb, and in their case, that’s a good thing. A sultry, sizzling, tamale-hot good thing: limited-edition Rockstud slingbacks in fiery red! Only 100 pairs were produced, so a shoe hardly gets more special than this. I have the honor of already securing a pair, thanks to the generosity of Valentino, and they are now the single-most eye-catching pair of shoes I own, hands down!”

Another solid example is Glam Media’s compensation disclosures. Often times they specifically list the purpose of the post and if compensation was received.

For instance, Style Bomb, a relatively new blogger to the scene wrote a sponsored post for Old Navy through Glam Media:

Here’s another example — a sponsored post about Chevy Malibu through Glam Media from SheShe Blog:

Mashable also does a job well done when identifying sponsored material:

Notice the sponsorship is at the beginning of the post and is 100% transparent.

If you’re still having trouble on what to write for giveaways/sponsored posts/gifted items, here are a few other suggestions:

  • Review/Giveaway with no payment: “Financial compensation was not received for this post. A sample product was gifted from _______. Opinions expressed here are my own.”
  • Sponsored and/or Giveaway post with payment: “Compensation for this post was provided by _________. Opinions expressed here are my own.”
  • If you want to write a full disclosure for your website, but are having trouble, DisclosurePolicy.org let’s you click the options that best suit you, and then basically writes the policy for you!

See also:
Fashion Blogger Burnout
Working with Brands Gracefully 
Fashion Blogs + Free Samples

Build Strategic Fashion Partnerships
The IFB Fair Compensation Manifesto

[Images credit to: Grit & Glamour, Yannis Vlamos/GoRunway.com]

Comments

  1. I have always disclosed right from 2007 when I started blogging – but that’s because I was a journalist & editor for many years, and knew by instinct from the beginning how the game should be played. Equally, I had no desire to compromise myself: I could hardly write a hotel story for The Sunday Times, with ‘Sasha Wilkins was a guest of XX’ at the end of it, and not do the same on my own personal blog. My credibility would be shot to pieces.

    I am horrified daily at the egregious examples of bloggers who do not disclose that, for example, they work or consult for the PR firm that represents the fashion brand they are drooling over; who take stays at hotels and mendaciously never breathe a word that the stay was comped, pretending that they picked up the bill themselves; who eat meals at restaurants and never mention that they were free; or who are clearly accepting payment for posts, but never mentioning that the piece is an advertorial.

    IS it really so hard to be open? Disclosure doesn’t have to be clunky: A competent writer should be able to weave disclosure into the weft of their blogpost.

    Take this story I wrote about Hotel Seven in Paris. I make it clear in the opening para that I had been invited to stay, as an organic part of the story. Of course, I still make full disclosure at the end of the piece. One should always be clear. http://www.libertylondongirl.com/2012/03/22/llg-hotel-stays-hotel-seven-paris/

    Take this post I wrote about Belgraves Hotel in London: they comped my room, but I paid for everything else, and I make that clear in my disclosure.
    http://www.libertylondongirl.com/2012/08/20/llg-travel-belgraves-hotel-london-room-review/

    With regard to this post here on IFB, I wld like to add that I don’t think that the Valentino gifting campaign is necessarily the best one to highlight the issue. We were all so obviously charmed to be one of the 100 editors gifted, that of course we were going to mention that they were presents from Valentino. A better case study would be one where there was no obvious desire or need to mention that there was gifting involved.

    Finally: bloggers need to sort their house out. As someone who still straddles the old and new worlds of fashion, I am distraught to see the blogging community I have been a part of for six years now besmirched by people who, whether they understand the consequences of their actions or not, behave in an unethical manner, give the old guard a myriad reasons not to take blogging seriously.

    People may argue that magazines aren’t held to the same standard, but since when was arguing that someone else’s actions was a justification for one’s own? Bloggers speak directly to their readers, trusted for their original and independent voice in a way magazines are not. Let’s not abuse that trust from our readers.
    LLGxx

    • Tali says:

      It’s a great comment! Indeed, the example wasn’t the best one.
      I find disclosures a very important issue. I am myself a reader of many blogs and I’m not the person who would ever tell when a certain opinion was payed. I tend to believe what bloggers write and take it as it is. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder, whether certain bloggers really can afford all they write about.. I guess I was just put on my guard and now I wonder how more expirienced people like yourself can tell whether something was gifted/sponsored and not disclosed.

    • Why do we still care whether the old guard takes blogging seriously? Aren’t we the ones driving change, and, by definition, in the driver’s seat?

    • Avatar of Becky | life.style.flash.

      Very fair points. I feel incredibly let down by bloggers who don’t disclose when an item was free/a post was sponsored. Even if I love(d) their blog I always unfollow on principle – if they don’t think enough of their readers to be honest, I hardly feel like valued.

  2. Adeola Naomi says:

    This is such a helpful and informative post that come at the perfect timing!
    THANK YOU IFB Crew for everything!

  3. It’s always disappointing when…. as a blogger I can spot what is pretty clearly a gifted/sponsored post, but there’s no acknowledgement of it. So I always try, and also always appreciate, when bloggers do acknowledge it– even in the form of how the gifted Valentino shoes were.

    Also, what LLG says in her comment:
    I am distraught to see the blogging community I have been a part of for six years now besmirched by people who, whether they understand the consequences of their actions or not, behave in an unethical manner, give the old guard a myriad reasons not to take blogging seriously.

    People may argue that magazines aren’t held to the same standard, but since when was arguing that someone else’s actions was a justification for one’s own? Bloggers speak directly to their readers, trusted for their original and independent voice in a way magazines are not. Let’s not abuse that trust from our readers.

    Can I add a LAWD yes? I always, always worry about what I do on my site and how it impacts people’s views. Do they get upset if I have c/o items? If I do a rare & occasional sponsored post?

  4. Avatar of moiminnie
    moiminnie says:

    I recently had a giveaway on my blog, but haven’t been paid for it nor compensated in anyway! I just got the product which I gave to one of my readers, but clearly stated the companies involved. It’s something that top tier bloggers should really pay attention to, their credibility is at stake!

    http://www.moiminnie.blogspot.com

    xx

  5. Fran says:

    What about bloggers like Cupcakes and Cashmere who only disclose they received something the first time its mentioned on the blog? While the first time is correct, it seems deceiving to not mention it the next time she wears it.

    • Tali says:

      Not even a “via”? without an example it’s hard to decide what’s going on.

      • Avatar of Becky | life.style.flash.

        Hmm I use “via” differently – I put a “*” next to gifted items and via if I’ve bought it through a large store e.g. if I bought a branded item “via” ASOS/Urban Outfitters/etc. I think it’s clear from my Disclosure but maybe I should re-word…?

  6. Bloggers not disclosing like FashionToast says:

    Agree with LLG, I never get why bloggers like Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast never disclose when their fashion and trips are comped. It’s lazy and unprofessional to me, and misleading to readers. These bloggers are American too so FTC laws apply.

  7. I tag every post/ad that I am paid for as a Sponsored Post. I also have a section on my blog called Sponsored Posts where a reader can click to see all of them. My daily posts are under the heading Featured Posts. When I do a giveaway I thank the giveaway sponsor so the reader knows who is actually supplying the prize. What do you suggest on a typical post where you link to an affiliate hoping the reader will buy what you are suggesting? Thanks, Betsy

  8. Kylie says:

    I mark gifted items with a * and have an explanation in my disclosure and recently added an explanation again on my side bar. I think it is a bit distasteful to go overboard with the whole ‘this was sent to me as a gift’ shebang. I think that could be equally off putting and come across as bragging.

  9. Kristina says:

    I have always, always specified sponsored or gift posts as such, but a while ago I was contacted by and wrote a paid post for a company who, after I published the post, requested that I remove my “this post is sponsored by ___ but all opinions herein are mine” line at the bottom as well as all of my “sponsor” tags and all reference to a sponsor from the post AND the url of the post. They stated that they found their sponsored/guest posts worked better for marketing when the blogger did not reference them as a sponsor.
    I obliged, since I didn’t know the guidelines for such things and I really truly did love everything I talked about in the post, but now I am wondering: how should I have responded? And in the future, since it sounded like they may contact me again, or if another potential sponsor has the same issue with a post I’ve already published, what is a gracious way to handle the subject?

    • Hi Kristina

      They were asking you to contravene the FTC regulations. It was unethical and wrong of the advertiser, and they would never have had the gall to ask this of a magazine, where advertorial (the equivalent of sponsored posts) is ALWAYS marked up. Of COURSE posts were more helpful to them when they were masquerading as editorial but that doesn’t mean they should be unethical and ask you to lie by omission. LLGxx

  10. Natalie Ast says:

    This is a great article… (thanks for the disclosure writer link as well!) but I still think that there needs to be a debate about disclosure… bloggers are as credible as fashion magazines (and have the same audience magnitude), so I don’t understand why only bloggers are targeted with having to disclose everything? Fashion magazines are rife with promotion. Here are my thoughts: http://natalieast.com/?p=2646

  11. Sarah says:

    My blog is more of a lifestyle/sewing blog but I do receive free items, so I write “c/o” on them the first time I post it. Should I be posting the “c/o” every time I wear it and post it on the blog like the previous commenter mentioned? Is it dishonest not to? http://jaynsarah.com

  12. Just recently I was e-mailed by an online social media person who wanted me to create a sponsored post for a client, but they were very clear that they wanted the post to look “organic” so they didn’t want me to label it as a sponsored post. I made it clear that wasn’t an option, but I’ve been doing this for long enough to know when a company is jerking me around. I think we all need to be very aware that NOT disclosing paid posts as such is ILLEGAL.

  13. And how should I proceed with an affiliate link that I may include in a post? For example, I am talking about a type of shoes in a post and I want to include an affiliate link for a shop that sells that type of shoes. I am not talking about the shop in any way, I am just giving it as a possibility to find that particular shoes with an affiliate link. What should I do?

  14. Cam says:

    Same question as Diandra. I don’t have any sponsors but I am i affiliate programs. I often post about products i just love and they are from the stores on the side because I am obsessed with those stores (that’s why i signed up for their affiliate programs). So what do we do about affiliate programs?

    • Pearl says:

      What I have seen people do is tag the post as ‘affiliate link’ then the reader knows the links are affiliate but you dont have to make a long declaration in ever post. Also you could say on your blog somewhere that you work with affiliates.

  15. Nadine says:

    This post had been enourmously helpful to me, as I actually made a mistake, I wasn’t aware of until I read this – so thank you beforehand.
    My blog exists for seven months and about three or four months ago I co-operated with a designer, who has an online store and who sended me two items from the store to wear in a post. I must admit at that time not having known how the game is to be played and asked her wether I should say, I received the items as a gift or purchased it from the store. The designer said least – so I didn’t claim that it was a gift and it actually looked like I bought it from the stores.
    I think I will change this in my blog immediately and also inform the designer – in the end of the day I am my own boss and have to decide how I expose a product to my readers. In other posts I have said it, when I was gifted something.
    I am really glad having come across this article as it is quite important to appear reliable to my community.

  16. PaintHead says:

    This is good to know..thank you for the examples.

  17. Asia says:

    This is very informative as I didn’t know that there were laws associated with sponsorship and disclosures. I just thought it was blogger courtesy. I have a small blog and readership so I haven’t encountered this issue yet.

  18. Pearl says:

    I put my disclosure in my ‘About Me’ page it, which lets readers know how I personally disclose my working with 3rd parties. I am debating if I need a separate page for it due to all the talk about disclosure lately. I guess the difficult thing is that we all disclose in different ways but I think so long as its clear it shouldn’t be a problem. I also think if we see a blog post which isnt disclosed but obviously should be, we should encourage each other to privately and politely point it out to the blogger as they may not be as aware of the issue as all of us who read IFB.

  19. Pearl says:

    Also I wanted to say, the more we stick together and tell brands we will not be dishonest to our readers, the sooner they will get the message and stop asking!

  20. Thanks for the article, it inspired me to write my own disclosure statement finally, and this post on the subject:
    http://malcriada.net/post/33158507788/full-disclosure-no-excuses
    Cheers,
    Jennifer

  21. Well, I wasn’t expecting to see little ol’ me in this post, so I am quite flattered! Thank you!

    This post is a super way to illustrate to other bloggers not only how to disclose gifted items, per FTC mandate, but how to smoothly blend that disclosure into the editorial. I always appreciate that approach; it feels more natural than a post-post disclosure, though it’s not always that easy to pull off.

    I’ve become a little weary of the sheer number of “commercial” posts on fashion blogs these days—while I don’t mind seeing gifted items featured in OOTD posts, or even reviews, which are helpful—I’m over the giveaways and all the tweets and messaging related to them. Bloggers need to be very selective about the kind of paid or sponsored content they feature, and the frequency of it. If every other post is a sales pitch or a sunglasses giveaway, I personally lose interest.

    And yeah, there ARE those advertisers who want you to not disclose that the content is paid. I’ve had some try to pull that over on me. The answer in that case is simple: a resounding NO. I try to head this type of situation off by having very specific terms on my rates page, which includes me maintaining complete editorial control. I ask advertisers to read and agree to the terms via email before I contract with any of them. I tell them they will NOT be provided copy to review prior to publication.

    The day I let advertisers “approve” copy is the day I’ve totally lost control. That last bit is something young bloggers should realize. THEY have the power, not the advertiser. And most advertisers who have integrity and understand the value of bloggers understand this and have no problem with it. If they’ve come to you, it’s because they like and trust your “voice,” so in general, they don’t try to alter what’s already working. Those advertisers/PRs are the ones you want to cultivate a relationship with.—that’s a win-win situation.

    Anyway, thanks again for the mention!

    V.

  22. Avatar of Watch For Girl
    abul says:

    I think it is a good idea.many people become benefit from hear.

  23. hotteach says:

    hi.it s a good idea.

  24. Thanks for the great write up!

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