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A Screamingly Effective Blog Disclosure Policy: How (and Why) To Get One

What does the recent FTC announcement mean for a humble, professional, freebie-accepting, affiliate-pimping, mostly-broke blogger eking out pennies or flats of free soda per post?

It means you need to write a blog disclosure policy.

What if you have nothing to disclose? (Pity the fool who has nothing to disclose.)

No matter. Write one anyways. A blog disclosure policy is an opportunity to demonstrate your character. It is an opportunity to sell your character and even your soul.

Because what else have you got to offer, really?

Your blog disclosure policy is a vehicle for soul-selling, storyselling, storytelling, and maybe even making some cold hard cash – even if you’re not there yet.

You’re A Blogger. Act Like One and Sell Us a Story.

If you’re a problogger, or you want to be, then you’re probably in the business of “content marketing.”

This might mean that you pimp out your online products with landing pages and direct-mail-ish sales letters that “hammers the reader with red headlines, yellow highlighting, and aggressive copy that grips the reader like a terrier shaking a squirrel“.

Sonia Simone calls this marketing with a harpoon. It is targeted, deadly-effective, and you’ve only got one shot at it.

Still, since you’re a blogger, you’re probably doing something different (at least most of the time). As Sonia Simone goes on to say, you’re probably marketing with a net. A friendly, supportive net:

Great content creates a high level of trust and rapport, and educates your potential client about all the benefits of doing business with you.

You might hold onto that prospect for three days or three years before he decides to buy. It doesn’t really matter. As long as you keep delivering value, that person will stick with you and stay tuned in to your message. And when he’s ready to buy, he’s yours.

Did you catch that? Trust, rapport, value, your message…those are some pretty revealing and high-bar keywords.
If you are blogging, you really are selling yourself. Your soul. You’re not just storytelling. You’re storyselling.

Your disclosure policy is one more page – one more place for your reader to get to know and like you – in your online diary.

You know, your weblog.

Storytelling. The narrative. The narrator. Who are you? Are you likeable?

That was my case for blogging as storyselling. Now, let’s kick it ol’ skool and return to plain jane storytelling.

In a sense, your blog persona is a character. I’m braver in text than I am in person. So, apparently, is the unapologetically contrarian Penelope Trunk. Online, Darren Rowse is our problogging, how-to-make-money guru and offline he has been a “real” minister – sometimes unpaid.

Who we are in our blogs are real, but our blogs are just one part of us, sometimes amplified.  Every page on your blog, right down to the most seemingly boring and mundane and possibly lawsuit-averting – like, ahem, a disclosure policy – is an opportunity to develop your character and tell your story.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, for example, is famous at least in part for the “Acknowledgements” sections of her books, in which her brilliantly broken, heart-breaking, fallen-writer-angel character continues her story-beside-the-story.

You can – and should! – do the same thing and advance your story in your static pages, including your disclosure policy.

The Five Elements of Your Storyselling, Storytelling Disclosure Policy. Vroom Vroom.

That’s the case for writing a screamingly effective blog disclosure policy. Now, how do you do that?

Dearest Reader, I’m so glad you asked.

There are five basic elements to a blog disclosure policy:

  1. Speak to the occasion (the FTC, your recent conviction for moneylaundering, what have you)
  2. Say a little something about your blog and how you make money (credibility)
  3. Say a little something about your ethics (trust, lawsuit-avoidance)
  4. Explain the consequences thereof for you (likeability, trust, message)
  5. Explain the consequences for the reader (likeability, advancing your story)

Those are the mechanics of a blog disclosure policy. Once it is gassed up and motoring, it looks like this. Or this, this, and this, too.

Did you read them? See what I mean? Even if you have never read these writers before, the style and content of their blog disclosure policies tells you who they are and what you can expect, and you’ve already decided if you’re coming back.

That’s storytelling and storyselling. That’s opportunity. Get on it.

Beyond the Gentle Chi of Blog Disclosures. Let’s Go Ninja Moneymaker.

Your disclosure policy is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to tell (and sell) your story, build trust and likeability. It might be legally required (if you’re American) and possibly it is the right thing to do. It can also make you money.

Seriously, it can.

John Chow did it. His disclosure policy, in my humble opinion, is blogging genius:

  • He speaks to the occasion (#1).
  • He reinforces his message and credibility (#2). What is his blog and his business about? Making money. His blog disclosure statement lines up with that perfectly. He knows how to make money online. He can probably teach you, too.
  • He builds trust – especially since he is Canadian and not bound by the rules of the FTC and therefore isn’t worried about avoiding lawsuits (#3).
  • He advances his story (#4). The story is this: I’m John Chow! I make money online by teaching people how to make money online! I don’t RSVP to BlogExpo parties*, I just show up and tell the bouncer, “I’m John Chow!”.
  • He then transcends my tai-chi storytelling/storyselling rules and goes ninja moneymaker.  John Chow recruited sponsors for his blog disclosure policy.
  • Yes he did. He really did. Moneymaking genius, he is.

*Note: John Chow, I live in Vancouver and you live in Vancouver so we’re practically neighbours and you are hereby invited to all my parties.

See how a great blog disclosure policy can get you traffic and cash and even things even money can’t buy? That’s just good blog ROI.

Get One With Your Inner John Chow and Sell Your Blog Disclosure Policy

After you’ve followed my five golden rules and constructed a blog disclosure policy that tells and sells your story, the next step is to get one with your inner John Chow and promote your policy strategically and shamelessly.

Your blog disclosure policy is new content. That means it is gold. Mine it.

Don’t simply disappear your hot new ethical statement into a permanent page. Instead, post it as a regular piece – with all the regular fanfare (horns, a string section, twitter) – and then migrate it to your disclosure page.

Kiss up to your muse. Find a way to get your disclosure statement – your personal beacon of hope, intelligence and ethics-in-action – a little attention.

Like, you know, writing about it for ProBlogger.

Kelly Diels is a writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about the three things everyone wants more of: sex, money, and meaning.

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Comments

  1. Dean Saliba says:

    I’m trying to creat soem disclosures for blogs and was wondering how to go about it and make them different from others.

    I think this will help.

  2. Goji says:

    Excellent!
    Thank you.

  3. Bill Haf says:

    Blog shut down by Lawsuit!

    Have you seen this? Does anyone have any ideas how to protecty your blog from this. Does a blogger need insurance?

    http://oshaaboveground.blogspot.com/2009/11/things-have-gotten-interesting.html

  4. Jeremy Head says:

    Seriously important… Have to say though… I expected a short, to the point post with a couple of great examples… this feels long-winded. Got there in the end I… but if it wasn’t a weekend I don’t think I’d have got the important stuff a good 30% of the way through the post.

  5. Jim Hardin says:

    Thanks Darren! I have seen these disclosure policies on other blogs and I have to say when I do read them and they are honest and true it does make me feel more comfortable with the owner of the blog. I think it really does help.

    Usually when I visit a blog not only do I read the post, but I tend to also like to read the about page. When the blogger has written a good about page that talks about who they are and why they are doing this it does really help me to connect with the person.

    I have to say I have to write a disclosure and a better about page. It certainly something I have neglected. That is the next thing I am going to do.

    Thanks for the advice. I am and I want to be true to my readers. I want them to feel comfortable with me knowing that they can trust me. It is difficult to trust people over the internet and anything we can do to build that trust is very important.

  6. Brandy says:

    Just created mine … not sure if I can leave my link here but if anyone feels like checking it out would love feedback:

    http://happilyblended.com/guidelines-disclosure/

  7. I so agree with this comment. If you have limited resources and limited budget a tutorial on how to go about it would be great. I am a newbie Internet Marketer with my first blog.

  8. Austin says:

    I should probably make one of these soon. Does anyone know what could happen if you don’t have one?

  9. I really do anticipate your next posts. If this one is any indication of the quality of your future posts, then I should say I’m hooked.

  10. Great post Kelly – thanks!
    This actually brought up the following question for me: Is it ok to title the ads on my blog “Sponsors” (as it is done here on problogger) if I use affiliate links (display ads) or would I have to tittle this “advertisement”?

  11. Benjamin Hur says:

    Great content as usual. Always something useful and new to learn even if not from an article’s intended purpose.

  12. Great article here. It is so important to keep up to date with the ever evolving industry of internet marketing. If adding a disclosure has ever seemed burdensome to any, it shouldnt anymore after this information! Thanks for the info!

  13. Lyrics says:

    This actually brought up the following question for me: Is it ok to title the ads on my blog “Sponsors”

  14. Jose Watch says:

    I am new to blogging and getting information out there. Your post here is very informative and gives me more insight as to creating an impact when commenting.