Welcome to #BusinessBootcamp, our series for entrepreneurs, focused especially bloggers and influencers. Read more in the series here.
There's something about FTC disclosures for influencers that are just so... womp womp. Even if you truly love a product and brand—maybe you've been writing about it for YEARS, for free, and finally snagged that sponsorship deal—the inclusion of a disclosure can automatically make your content feel less organic, less genuine.
It doesn't have to be that way. You can be compliant and genuine at the same time—and it will just make your sponsored posts even more compelling, for your readers and your sponsor.
Here are our top three tips for making #sponcon feel as natural as possible.
1. Make it look like the rest of your content
The best sponsored content, what brands are looking for and are willing to pay for, is content that doesn't appear sponsored. I'm not talking about the lack of disclosures, or even using sneaky (non-compliant!!) disclosures like #sp or #spon instead of #ad, but about the quality of the content itself.
Back in the early days of blogging, you could write a standard product review and have that pass muster. You know what kind of post I'm talking about:
"I received X product. [Insert stock photo of X product]. I tried X product. [insert PR messaging about X product]. I loved X product! Here's a giveaway or discount code for you to try X product, too!"
BO-RING. Also, there's basically no value to your audience or the brand. Most influencers have moved way, way beyond this stock product review format (hooray!) but it bears repeating that to get best results with your audience, do what you're already doing that they already love.
If they love selfies of you with your daily eats, do that. If they love really personal blog posts, do that. If they love seeing your workouts and following along, do that.
A few AMAZING examples:
- This post is possibly the most genuine sponsored post ever written about bras. You would never know it's sponsored until the end - but then the sponsor makes perfect sense.
- This Instagram shot is sponsored but fits right into her grid; it looks and feels just like everything else on her feed.
2. Personalize your disclosures
Instead of thinking of your disclosures as an ugly, but necessary appendage on your posts, treat them like an integral part of the post. There are some required words you have to say, but there's no reason you can't dress them up a bit. Here are a few examples of how influencers have integrated their voice into standard disclosure language:
At the beginning of the post:
Hi! I'm over the moon excited to be partnering with prAna on this post. As you know, I'm a huge fan of the brand, and having them sponsor me is a dream come true! As always, opinions are my own. Thanks for your support. <3
At the end of the post
A huge thank you to Supergoop for sponsoring this post, and for your genuine and heartfelt commitment to sunscreens that work. I couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with you. And readers, thank you for your continued support! It doesn’t go unnoticed, and is so very much appreciated.
Notice how all these disclosures are very upfront about the fact that it's sponsored, but the authors don't check their voice at the door when it comes time to include the required language. A little effort like this goes a long way to making the content feel more like a partnership between you and the brand.
3. Make it integral to the content
Well & Good has a genius approach to sponsored content: not only is the content really good, but they make the sponsorship aspect integral to the post itself, both via featured images that proudly display the partnership:
And then, when you click through, the whole experience is branded, from the "Presented by" line, to the sidebar ad for... you guessed it, Athleta.
Great setup, eh? It's what we're seeing happen with more and more media companies: Greatist does partnerships a very similar way, and even the New York Times has dedicated Brand Studio content.
How are you handling disclosures? What do you do to make your sponsored content shine?
Now for my disclosure: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. I am not an expert on FTC disclosures. To make sure you're in compliance, please read the guidelines. If you need help interpreting them, here's a handy guide with all sorts of resources.
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