First of all, this isn’t new. We have had a social media-related ethics code in place since 2005. At that time, it was the Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics. It helped us decide what was ‘best-practice’ and what wasn’t. These are our ethics not something handed down through culture or a governing body. We simply believed that social media’s true power was grounded in trust — trust between bloggers and their readers; between brands and their followers; between marketers and customers.
The updated code covers more contemporary circumstances. Facebook for one. We have learned that there are principles that can guide our behavior in community management as well as influencer management. We have made a choice to embrace the principles of clear disclosure in our work everywhere even while only one consumer protection body that I know of, the FTC, requires it.
I wanted to share with you and certainly ask for input and feedback. This is a living document and can hardly ever be called “done.” Still, it will guide our global teams as we continue to design and execute complex, multi-market programs around the world. Check it out:
The Ogilvy Social Media Engagement Code
Great relationships are built upon trust. From the start, the value for marketers to use social media was to earn the attention, advocacy and action of customers, influencers and stakeholders. While there are ways to improve our odds at “earning” all of this, there are also perils at short term tactics that can undermine the circle of trust and effectively poison the well.
The relationships we grow online between brands and customer or stakeholders are the future of our business. The digital age has changed the marcom world. Our ability to grow healthy relationships, earn brand advocacy, earn a place in someone’s social graph, earn people’s precious time and attention – will define marketing and communications effectiveness.
Trust, transparency, and true value exchange are not clichés nor empty buzzwords. They are the difference between effective use of social media and word of mouth marketing and harming relationships between organizations and their customers and stakeholders.
We, at Ogilvy, have had a social media code of ethics to guide us since 2005. It began as the Blogger Code of Ethics and spoke to our commitment to doing things right. It’s grown but never wavered from what we know from experience is the right way to run our business and provide value to our clients.
So here is the latest generation of our engagement code. This is foundational to how we do things. It has been informed by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Code of Ethics as well as consumer protection laws such as the United States Federal Trade Commission’s Guidelines on Endorsements and Testimonials. This is a living document and will be refined periodically.
Beyond our commitment to doing things right in social media, never forget how David Ogilvy captured our approach to business, “Only first class business, and that in a first class way.”
- When reaching out to a Influencers & fans (these could be bloggers, journalist-bloggers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, message board members – all of the influencers we might engage) on behalf of a client, we will always identify ourselves as Ogilvy working on behalf of our client, clearly disclosing who we are and who we work for.
- Within an initial outreach email, tweet or other communication, we will always fully disclose the purpose of the email as it pertains to the program or campaign, our disclosure requirements including a link to Ogilvy’s Social Media Engagement Code.
- In our communication we will convey why we think an influencer or fan, in particular, might be interested in our client’s product, issues, event or message.
- When blogging about Ogilvy, an Ogilvy client, or products and services, an influencer must clearly disclose their relationship with Ogilvy and the Ogilvy client, including any ‘material connection’ between Ogilvy or the client and the influencer (e.g. a product loaner, an event experience, travel expenses to a brand event, etc…). We follow the WOMMA Guide to Disclosure in Social Media Marketing for Disclosure Best Practices. This approach outlines our responsibilities in enforcing clear and prominent disclosure. http://womma.org/ethics/disclosure/
- Ogilvy staff will not publish (blog, tweet, Facebook post, etc…) about a client without the explicit agreement from the client that we can do so and then only with full disclosure of our connection to the brand (e.g. adding (cl) to a tweet about a brand to signify that they are a client) and in compliance with Ogilvy’s Social Media Guidelines for Employees
- In working with employees of brands as ambassadors, we will always enforce their full disclosure of their employee relationship in their external communications.
- Whatever the influencer or fan chooses to write or produce should always reflect their honest and truthful opinion and actual experience.
- At the same time, we are responsible for the claims a blogger, whom we engage, makes about a product and when they make incorrect or false claims, we must correct the record
- When we engage with influencers or fans specifically about a client product or service, they are never required to create positive content about that product or service, no matter the type of experience they may have with us or our client. That is their choice and their opinion is their own.
- We won’t pretend to have read an influencer’s blog or other content if we haven’t, and we’ll always get to know an influencer before we reach out to them.
- We will always know who we are trying to engage and respect their position with their audience or community. If they are a professional journalist first and foremost, we will understand that role and treat them accordingly. If they are a busy mom blogger, we will be sensitive to their issues and needs. If they are a customer, we will treat them with care and respect.
- We will always work hard to have good reason to connect our brand or program with a particular influencer or fan. We know that everyone’s time is precious and will not indiscriminately contact influencers.
- We will seek to present influencers with a range of opportunities to work together around a campaign, so that he/she can create the best experience possible for their audience. We acknowledge that, when it comes to knowing their audience, they are the expert.
- We will always be conscious of the value that an influencer or fan will receive for engaging with us (and how the brand will benefit) and work hard to make it relevant, inspiring and right-sized. And whenever it is something of value from a product loaner, to travel expenses in order to have an experience with the brand or dinner and drinks, we will enforce our disclosure policies.
- If we reach out to an influencer about a product, campaign or issue, we will not provide monetary compensation (e.g. cash, cash cards, similar cash-like offers) for them to produce positive content about the product, service or brand, because we believe it is bad practice to “buy” favorable reviews and do not want to appear as if we are.
- If we ask a influencer to review a product and, therefore, provide the influencer with the product to enable him/her to “experience” it, we will ask that he/she be transparent and reveal that he/she has been given the product temporarily, or permanently.
- If we engage the influencer or fan as an advisor or consultant on a specific project, we will consider providing compensation (agreed upon at the start of the project). This compensation will solely be for time as an advisor or a specific job and will not include an expectation that they will write favorably about the project, product or brand.
- If an influencer has advertising opportunities on his/her blog or media site, we will counsel our client to consider purchasing advertising as a way to reach their readers. We will make it clear, however, that paying for advertising does not mean that the influencer will post about the campaign or that, if the influencer does, he/she will do so in a way that is favorable to the brand.
- If we involve people in a contest that rewards sharing or posting of content, we will avoid any conditions that would promote people spamming others or falsely supporting a brand, topic or issue.
- Unless specifically requested or opted in, Ogilvy will not send email newsletters or other material that could be considered as SPAM to any influencer or fan.
- Before we email an influencer, we will check out the site/blog’s About, Contact and Advertising page in an effort to see if he/she has said he/she does not like to be contacted by PR/Marketing companies.
- If an influencer tells us there is a specific way he/she wants to be reached, we’ll adhere to those guidelines.
In accordance with consumer protection laws (we use US law as a global baseline) we will not directly contact children under the age of 13 for any social media or word of mouth marketing program and will comply with all applicable laws dealing with minors and marketing, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (”COPPA”).