Media ethics is a subject of constant concern, and for good reason. The drastic impact media can have on individuals specifically and society collectively has received an abundance of scholarly attention. As of late, media entities are fighting for profits and sacrificing objectivity in order to garner public attention. Because of this, increasing numbers of Internet users are turning to bloggers for news and product information. One of the most popular categories of bloggers is the “mommy blogger” community.
Focusing on this community, media professionals can obtain an understanding of the legalities and ethics of third party endorsements and the appropriateness of building blogger relationships.
Essentially, a third party endorsement is a recommendation or testimonial by a source other than the manufacturer or producer of the product/service. Third party endorsements are a popular tool for several reasons. With increasing awareness of the prevalence of misleading advertisements comes consumer resistance. Mommy bloggers are one of the tightest niche groups online, but all niches may engage in third party endorsements.
The attractiveness of third party endorsements is evident, however the practice raises ethical concerns. Is it right for a company to send free goodies to a blogger in return for a positive review? What happens when money is involved?
Guidelines have been developed by the Federal Trade Commission to control the practice of third party endorsements. For starters, if there is a connection between the seller of the product and the blogger, full disclosure is required. Put simply, bloggers need to tell their readers how they have obtained a product. When a new mom is reading through a review of the newest baby formula, she wants to be sure that the review is genuine, not for money. Thankfully, many bloggers have reported this to be a nonissue, as they were making such relationships evident before the implementation of these new guidelines.
Because the guidelines are essentially requiring honesty out of the endorsers, these relationships can be a gold mine for business professionals. Consider your own actions when looking for a product or service. Most likely you turn to the Internet to perform a search and read testimonials. There are an abundance of niche communities amongst the blogosphere. These niche communities trust each other and the unbiased reviews they each release. By getting yourself mentioned by a blogger through a third party endorsement, you are utilizing the blogger to directly reach your ideal customer.
The pubic does not like fluffery. They see bloggers as trusted friends. Product advice and recommendations from friends are extremely influential. Captivating on these relationships is both effective and prosperous.