FTC Disclosure Guidelines: What You (and Kim Kardashian) Need to Know

Kim Kardashian Instagram Morning Sickness Post

Image credit: Forbes

A contentious disclosure by Kim Kardashian recently put endorsement transparency and FTC-compliance back on the agenda.

The controversy revolved around an Instagram post in which she claimed to be “so excited and happy” after using Diclegis, an anti-nausea drug, that she was “partnering” with the company “to raise awareness about treating morning sickness.”

Of course, the makers of Diclegis had paid Kim to make the statement. But was the subtle “partnering” disclosure enough?

According to the FTC, the same consumer protection laws against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” that apply to commercial activities in other media apply online, including activities on social media and in mobile channels.

FTC guidelines state that disclosure needs to occur whenever a company provides a third-party content producer (celebrities included) some form of compensation. This could take the form of money, gifts, and complimentary services.

In addition, the burden is on the brand to ensure the content producer uses the appropriate disclosure. This means the FTC expects a representative from the brand to contact the influencer/blogger with guidance on how to disclose effectively if the blogger has not been clear on the dealings with the brand.

Disclosure can take many forms. At a basic level it is a public acknowledgement that a relationship exists between the content producer and the brand. For example, adding #client to the end of a Tweet, or mentioning a brand’s generous offer of free product at the beginning of a blog featuring the product are both legitimate forms of disclosure.

To make a disclosure clear and conspicuous, advertisers/marketers/communicators should consider:

Placement & Proximity: The placement of the disclosure in the advertisement and its proximity to the claim. For example, it can’t just be added to the bottom of the blog post.

Prominence: It is the communicator’s responsibility to draw attention to the required disclosures. This can be done through ensuring the disclosure is the appropriate format – text size, color – and that it’s not overwhelmed by other content and buried in text.

Distractions: Organizations cannot actively direct attention away from the disclosure, distracting the consumer of the content.

Repetition: Is one disclosure enough? Or does the disclosure need to be repeated to be effective? Consider how audience is consuming the message, and is it possible for them to have missed the disclosure. For example, including “we tweet about our clients” on a PR agency’s profile page isn’t adequate, as most people don’t view tweets on the profile page. Instead, a disclosure needs to be made with each individual tweet.

Language: Is the language of the disclosure understandable to the intended audience? If you are targeting a consumer audience, it should not be framed in technical language or legal speak.

Check out the FTC website for the comprehensive disclosure guide.

Taking these guidelines into consideration, it’s probably safe to say the use of the word “partnering” was too vague and ambiguous. Kim and Diclegis messed up.

When in doubt it’s best for brands (and the influencers they work with) to lean on the side of clarity and transparency.

What does your company’s social media policy say about disclosure and transparency? And when was the last time you circulated it around the organization to remind employees of their disclosure obligations?

Survey & Infographic from Black Hat 2015 – Hot Security Topics, Overused Buzzwords and more

The second biggest security conference of the year – Black Hat 2015 – may be critiqued as being more and more corporate (comparing it to its professional counterpart RSA), but the research and hacks remain just as impressive as ever. From cyber espionage, to IoT, to car hacking – a landmark moment forever changing the public’s perception of security – this year’s show was anything but dull. Highwire Security was on the ground surveying attendees and here’s what we found:

Top Trends in Security

In line with conversations with reporters, clients and security experts, the survey found that IoT (40 percent) remains the hottest trend in security this year. And the research at the show holds true – hacking rifles, satellites and even a skateboard. Tied for a close second was application security (30 percent) and board-level security awareness (30 percent) – regardless of the intense frequency of hacks and breaches, there is still a major disconnect between the developer and the board.

While IoT dominated conversation this year, we’re expecting to see a few new topics on the list at Black Hat 2016. For example, the intersection of healthcare and security was a hotly discussed item at this year’s show, with the FDA recently making one of their first comments ever on cybersecurity. Long considered to be a laggard when it comes to security, the healthcare industry is finally starting to acknowledge there is work to be done.

In addition to healthcare, we expect to see cyber legislation shoot up the charts next year. For months, the security research community has been very outspoken about the controversial Wassenaar Arrangement, and with a few other security-focused bills on the floor of congress, the trend is only expected to go up.

What are Security Pros Scared of?

People! Twenty eight percent are most concerned about careless employees and user error – insider threats remain a top cause of many high-profile breaches (ahem, Target). Closely followed by 25 percent concerned about cyber espionage (Sony) and 23 percent concerned about mobile malware (Stagefright). Interestingly enough, only 6 percent are concerned about PoS attacks, when in reality 40 percent of data breaches were PoS breaches according to Trustwave’s 2015 Global Security Report.

OPM OMG

The recent hack on the Office of Personnel Management has dominated headlines for months, with the number of leaked records increasing in almost every update to the story. So many whispers at Black Hat speculated what would happen next: “Who has this data?” “Somebody’s just sitting on it- are government profiles being built?” “What’s the next targeted agency?” 

The ongoing saga of nation state attacks have struck a nerve with the security community- and everybody has an opinion. Many politicians have recently called for increased collaboration between the private and public sectors to thwart these breaches, with 73 percent of Black Hat attendees claiming they agree that the entities should increase information sharing between one another.

Excuse My French

So what’s the worst of the worst in security? Cut these words from your vocabulary and save yourself a few eye rolls. The top buzzwords security pros are sick of hearing are next generation (64 percent), advanced persistent threats (54 percent), thought leader (52 percent) and game changer (52 percent). Oh and while you’re at it, let’s get rid of disruptive (40 percent), hacktivism (40 percent) and BYOD (36 percent) too.

See our full results below, and we’ll see you at Black Hat 2016!

BlackHat Infographic-Revised2

Written by Christine McKeown, Bill Bode, Nicole Plati and Megan Grasty, members of Highwire PR’s security practice

Minimizing Your Public Speaking Anxiety: 4 Top Tips I’ve Learned from Toastmasters

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In the world of PR, public speaking is critical for success. You must be able to speak eloquently and professionally with your coworkers, clients, journalists and other professionals in the industry. But the reality for most of us is that public speaking is terrifying. In fact, the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) is the No. 1 ranked phobia above fear of death (necrophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, glossophobia affects nearly 75 percent of individuals. However, overcoming this fear and minimizing the anxiety of public speaking is achievable, no matter your age or what stage you are in your career. 

Earlier this year I had the privilege of joining a Bay Area Toastmasters group, and it has been a beyond-amazing experience. Toastmasters is a group of local professionals who get together on a weekly basis to practice and build their public speaking skills. Through a sense of camaraderie, practice and feedback, we are on a mission to feel confident and comfortable when faced with the challenge – or really, opportunity – to speak in front of an audience.

Initially, joining the Toastmasters group was a bit intimidating. But after a few meetings, I realized this was a great selection of undeniably supportive individuals that were going to help me succeed. I’ve been going to Toastmasters for almost six months now, and looking back I’ve realized that the experience has taught me more than this post can fit. But in an effort to share some of the best takeaways, here are a few of my top tips:

Start with a structured storyline: Whether you’re writing a pitch, press release or even just an email to a client, everything should have a structured storyline: intro – body – conclusion. Being able to speak or write with a framework in mind will keep your audience engaged and allow them to effectively follow your key messages

Keep it short and sweet and you’ll succeed: If you know anything about PR, you know it’s a fast-paced industry. Your time is precious and so is everybody else’s!  So stay organized and concise. In Toastmasters, the longest speech is a maximum of 8-10 minutes, with most between 5-6 minutes. When speaking with somebody on the phone or in-person—whether it’s a client call, pitching a journalist or talking to a coworker—be mindful of their time and get to your key points quickly. They will appreciate your consideration and you’ll free up time to get back to what’s at hand.

Like, minimize your.. um.. filler words: Let’s face it, we all use the common “like” or “um” on occasion, but try to minimize the frequency of them as much as possible. At every Toastmasters meeting, we have an assigned grammarian, whose role is to monitor and count each person’s use of filler words (e.g. like, um, but, so, etc.) And trust me, the people you’re talking to will notice them much more than you notice yourself. The next time you’re talking to a friend or coworker, pay extra attention to your use of “likes” or “ums.” By cutting these filler words out of your speech, you’ll appear much more professional in any setting.  

Own your mistakes – you’re only human: Our Toastmasters group is made up of everyday business professionals. Nobody is an award-winning public speaker or is there to criticize your every word. This made me realize that everybody makes mistakes, in Toastmasters and in life in general. Everybody stutters, pauses and says the wrong word on occasion, whether it’s you, your boss, a journalist or your client. So don’t get hung up on your mistakes, because your audience has most likely made them too. Just own them and move on.

All in all, I’m incredibly happy with my decision to join Toastmasters. Not only does it help you improve your skills and confidence in public speaking, but it also offers some great key takeaways that can be applied to any personal or professional situation—especially PR. Ready to take your public speaking to the next level? Use the “Find a Club” feature on the Toastmaster’s website to find a club near you.

Written by Celina Poonamallee, an Account Executive in San Francisco.

 

Beyond Email: 9 Tips for Pitching on Twitter, the Phone and at Events

These days, most pitching, the backbone of public relations, starts with an email. You spend hours fine-tuning a pitch with your team, before sending it off to a reporter with your fingers crossed. Often it’s a hit, but sometimes it falls flat.

No responses to your initial email doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a bad pitch or that your announcement isn’t newsworthy. Whether you get a response or not often depends on factors that are out of your hands: a crowded inbox, a misread subject line, poor timing, etc.

Clearly, you can’t solely rely on email, because it isn’t a perfect communication tool. You have to reach the reporters where they are (always keeping in mind that some reporters prefer email-only interaction).

Below, are some strategies from Highwire Walkers on how they like to get in front of reporters, and what to do when you get ahold of them:

Phone Pitching — Andrea Torres, SAE

Public relations and sales have one thing in common – phone calls. Just like salespeople, PR people need to be friendly and get to the point quickly to do our jobs well. When pitching reporters, keep the following in mind:

Do your research: Have you taken the time to dig into your contacts? Have you read or at least skimmed recent stories? If not, stop what you are doing – you are not ready to pick up the phone. Before dialing, spend the time to know whom you are calling and what they are writing about. This step will make sure you make a good first impression and that you are prepared should you have to think of news angles on the fly.

Have a plan: Researching your targets beforehand is one thing, but it won’t get you very far if you haven’t gotten your thoughts and key conversation points organized. This might mean creating an outline to guide you or writing out an entire script. The takeaway is here is to set yourself up for success so to that you can get your point across.

Get to the point: If you want to lock in that briefing, don’t waste a journalist’s time; make your point quickly and concisely. This step is easier if you’ve followed step 1 and 2.

Be Nice: PR is all about relationships, so be nice. When talking to journalists on the phone, ask about their day and smile. It might seem odd, but smiling helps you relax and sound more pleasant.

Twitter Pitching — Ben Noble, AE

Twitter is a high-risk/high-reward platform that can help quickly catch a journalist outside their busy inbox. Journalists who frequently use Twitter are likely to engage in conversation and/or acknowledge posts from their followers. I recommend grabbing the journalist’s attention online with an eye-catching message and then shifting the conversation to email.

Don’t jump headfirst into a pitch: Nobody wants unsolicited pitches clogging up their timeline. Instead, offer insight into an article or post presented on the journalist’s feed. Share your perspective, ask them for their thoughts and offer counterpoints to topics of discussion. Building Twitter relationships starts with a courting process. Once you have a proper cadence of back and forth, indicate that you may have someone who can further address the topic (your client) and offer to send an email.

Avoid pitching several reporters at once. Twitter is an open forum and your tweets are public. Spamming journalists will be noticed and frowned upon.

Follow up – but not the same way as you would through email. If a journalist doesn’t reply to your first attempt at conversation, don’t be dissuaded. Feel free to follow up by prompting another discussion. Don’t remind the journalist of your initial post. Instead, start a new conversation to show that you are legitimately interested in the journalist’s perspective. Again, Twitter relationships involve courting. Prove that you are a committed follower rather than a one-off attention seeker.

Pitching In-Person — Lauren Kido, SAE

For PR pros, seeing reporters in-person is like a celebrity sighting: you usually know so much about them, have the perfect conversation scripted out in your head and are a little hesitant to approach them at first. But, whether the sighting happens at a networking event, conference, tradeshow or at your local coffee shop, here are a few things to keep in mind when pitching reporters in-person:

Make it a conversation: Meeting in-person is an excellent way to build relationships for your client, but it shouldn’t all be business. Strike up a conversation about non-work related topics, and if you’re following a reporter on social media, now’s your chance to ask about the new puppy or how relaxing that beach vacation was (just be sure first to note that you saw their tweet).

Ask questions: You’ve emailed, called and tweeted and now you’re chatting face-to-face! Use this valuable time to get a better sense of what the reporter is working on by asking what they’re interested in covering, tired of hearing about and what thoughts they have on industry trends. It’s also helpful to understand how they might like to be pitched in the future so you can pass this information along to the rest of your team.

Have business cards handy: Business cards should always be kept on hand at any networking event. Make sure to write your client names and websites on your business cards so reporters can easily jog their memory when they are sorting through cards at the end of a long night.

Pitching on Twitter, in-person, on the phone — it can all be daunting. But, with some practice, you get the hang of it, and the coverage will start coming in.

Happy pitching!

 

Written by Ben Levine, an Account Associate in San Francisco, with help from Lauren Kido, Ben Noble and Andrea Torres