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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. Matt says:

    That was a great write-up. I’m going to have to get a Disclosure Policy going for my blog, even though I’m also Canadian and not bound by the new FTC regulations. There’s no reason not to.

  2. It’s great article! I absolutely love this website as my blogging without it wouldn’t be possible. I am just starting new blog and will learn from all your tips. once again, thanks!!

  3. Young says:

    Nice advice, expecially the example of John Chow. This post will be useful for those bloggers in USA or even in other countries such Canada from where Johnchow made his policy at the very beginning.

  4. Matt says:

    Also, I tried to go go to Kelly’s website but the link was broken. There’s a mail link in front of her url.

  5. Great tip Darren, i’m gonna write disclosure policy for my blog, but i don’t know what order or format. I think i’ll copy a bit of John’s and yours.

  6. Jason Ulsrud says:

    I love John Chow’s disclosure. To the point and honest. Being new to blogging I am unaware of the “new” FTC rules, so I will have to update myself on those as well.

    In the mean time I plan on creating my disclosure policy and having it up next week.

    Thanks for the info…

  7. Blogidy says:

    I never even heard of a blog disclosure policy before this. I think I must consider writing one. Thanks for the informative post.

  8. I recently rewrote my disclosure policy to reflect the new changes and in my own voice instead of the standard format. I included disclosures for twitter, facebook, and even affiliate links.

    I think it’s important to have one and honestly, I can’t understand why people are making such a stink about it. Just do it. It’s not hard to disclose.

  9. Blommi says:

    I have been writing a short individual statement, for any blog post that might be considered even remotely promotional, until my disclosure page goes up.

    I just moved writing my disclosure statement up on my bloggings chores list.

  10. Alla says:

    I hope John’s readers have a great sense of humor. And if they don’t, I just wish him best of luck. I think it is very important to write the disclosure statement. My blog is very young and I make zero money at this point. Yet I decided to write the statement because I do and I will promote various products. Here is my statement.
    http://loveandatingclub.com/affildiscl1.html

  11. Kelly,

    I’ve had a disclsure policy since the beginning of my blogger’s life because John Reese suggested to have one.

    Now given this new ruling, I will have to go back in and update it.

    I will check out John Chow’s!

    Thanks. This is a great reminder on how to act like a professional.

    Krizia

  12. Dane Morgan says:

    It’s cool how many bloggers are, well, blogging their disclosure statements. They are a lot more fun now than they will be in a few months’ time when the boiler plates start encroaching the ‘sphere.

  13. Danny C says:

    What the heck is up with the last URL?

  14. sam says:

    I like your disclaimer – I found it open and honest, did you up on the legalities before you wrote yours, or take into consideration the law? I am not sure what I want to include when I write mine as I thought they followed a certain format.

  15. Srinivas Rao says:

    Another awesome post Kelly. I can tell any of you this. If you haven’t connected with Kelly you really should. Her advice on helping me find my own voice on my blog has been priceless and dramatically increased the quality of my writing. Time to star getting to work on a disclosure policy.

  16. Kelly Diels says:

    hi everyone – my blog address is http://www.kellydiels.com. EEEK to my broken link.

  17. Gerlaine says:

    I have never thought about creating a blog disclosure, but now I will create one. Awesome!

  18. Thanks very much for the link to my Family Travel Guide blog disclosure policy Page.

    I’ve had travel blogger freebie issues on my mind quite a lot lately, and it felt really good to just lay it out there, but in a conversational tone. Flattered you noticed. :)

  19. he is a genius – that is a phenomenal idea! PS I just read his disclosure – he’s too funny. Darren, your formula of five basic elements really helps out with what needs to be included. I’m going to follow it as I’m creating mine. Thanks.

  20. I love this. I assumed, when I found out we would all need disclosure statements, that they would be rather boring and long-ish legalese that no one would read somewhere on the blog. This is much better, to write one that reflects your onine persona.

  21. Lorian Rivers says:

    Too funny..Love the “in your face” disclosure.

    Like the guys that stand at the corner with the sign that says “need beer”. Gotta love em…..at least they are being honest.

  22. NIbras Bawa says:

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but my understanding of this whole FTC thing is that its not universally applicable. I’m not sure how Singapore based bloggers like myself are affected by this. But anyway its good to have a self disclosure, isn’t it?

  23. 52 Domains says:

    I agree with you on the John Chow “screamingly effective” disclosure policy. But as a person coming in new to problogger and then being sent to John Chow… talk about a study in contrasts.

    Is that really the most effective comparison you could come up with for your audience?

    It is like saying, “hi caution… meet wind.” Not always a good combo.

  24. What a fantastic post. Now only for the technical details, because blogger.com is very limited platform, easy to use for some blog-newbie like me, but when I need to do something extra, problems ring on a door.

    Anyway, at least I am going to make some info page or something.

    Thanks once again for making me see things in a positive way.

  25. Eric C says:

    I’m left wanting more on the actual mechanics of this process. I see the need, but not really getting structure and what have you.

  26. Sonia Simone says:

    Ha ha, this post was full of awesome! (Not just the parts that quoted me. Although, let’s face facts, I thought those were pretty good.) The John Chow link is absolutely amazing.

    BTW, if you do business with Americans, the FTC will absolutely go to your country (especially if it’s an English-speaking country) to hassle you for not complying with their laws.

  27. So funny you’d mention this today. I was planning to write one of these to post to my blog on Monday. See, right now, I’m making absolutely no money from my blog and am not really trying… yet. (I just reopened it this week.)

    But, after recently watching a Gary Vaynerchuk video about being excruciatingly authentic, I wanted to post my goals for the site – including how I plan to make money from it.

    So yes, this is perfect timing. I can imagine myself after a meeting this evening writing up my post and linked up disclosure policy following your instructions and the examples to the letter.

    With all the responsibility, I hope your formula is good advice. :>)

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  28. Well, I was wondering how to break it to my readers that one day I’d like to earn money from my blog. Just reading the term “monetize” makes me squirm but we writers need to eat too and I have 3 large and very hungry children too. Not mention a husband…

  29. David Risley says:

    I just love your writing style, Kelly. Awesome stuff.

    Yeah, have fun with our disclosure policy. If the FTC wants to mess with us, I say mess back. ;-)

  30. Do I still have to make a disclosure policy even if I’m not selling anything and haven’t made even a penny yet?

  31. FutureExpat says:

    Great article — I especially love the John Chow disclosure. Here’s the one I’ve had on my blog for several months:

    Disclaimer

    The FTC, which has completely ignored serious schemes which defraud consumers for the past eight years, has now decided to investigate and go after individual bloggers who have the nerve to try to make some money from the sites they spend hours and hours making useful to the public. Any of us who use affiliate marketing and suchlike are now open to FTC interference. This is similar to the IRS going after the minimum-wage earner who mows a few lawns and gets paid under the table while ignoring the Mark Rich and Bernie Madoff types. In other words, completely ridiculous. So, here’s my big fat disclaimer:

    Big Fat Disclaimer

    If you click on a link that leads to Amazon.com and actually buy a book, DVD, or whatever, I’ll make a few pennies. If you click on a link from an advertisement and actually buy something, I’ll make a few pennies. If I have a link within some text that takes you to a site that sells something and you buy from them, I’ll make a few pennies. I will only use that type of text link when I have personally bought the product or used the service and honestly feel I can recommend it.

    If you have any questions about the advertising policy of this site, please feel free to contact.

    from http://futureexpats.com/about

  32. Sandra says:

    OHMIGOSH! A blinding flash of the obvious – I’m a blogger, not a lawyer! Thanks Kelly, I always miss that stuff that’s right in front of me.

    And you know John Chow will show up at your parties – how could he turn down an invite from the creator of Cleavage? :)

  33. Domaining says:

    Great timing for this article – I was wondering how the new FTC rules would affect my blog. Now I have one more thing to add to my to-do list this weekend!!

  34. Ok, so you convinced me to write one! I just finished it, not sure if it’s covered legal-wise, but it’s honest. Here it is:

    Homegrown Mom Disclosure

  35. David Morson says:

    You give me so much of new information which I could never earn from any other blog an it helps me a lot in my blogging with new ideas, I was really thinking about how new FTC rules would affect my blog, thanks for such a good information.

  36. apol says:

    Having a Disclosure Policy in a blog or website is very important as this impose credibility and trust from the reader of the blog to the blogger himself, especially when there’s something to sell on your blog. Great article here, full of tips.

  37. Don says:

    How and why should you do what and when, this becomes a lot organized and guided practice once you have your policies in place.
    Blog, though a virtual existence is more real these days. It is your voice and a part of your internet citizenship.

  38. work at home says:

    I always interest to write for my blog reader, I also try to follow John cow like blog. Their blog marketing strategy is really very good.

  39. Great read, Kelly.
    I too have to get in touch with my “Inner John Chow”.
    Thanks for the disclosure ideas.

  40. pochp says:

    Another must-react-to post.
    Bravo Problogger!

  41. scheng1 says:

    hmmm, will FTC goes after those who use Google Adsense? I wonder how to write the disclosure since Google does not allow us to say “click the advertisement” or “visit the sponsor website”!

  42. Great article — I especially love the John Chow disclosure.

  43. First, just because someone isn’t monetizing their blog and doesn’t need a disclosure doesn’t mean they need pity.

    Secondly, there’s so much bad info about the FTC. Not everyone will need to disclose as much as they think. And often times, a simple sentence for a review post is all it would take.

    Ref: The top 3 biggest myths of FTC disclosure

  44. Brilliant! Using what could be the most boring and mind numbing section of your blog to further your brand and connect with readers is a fantastic idea. Boy – wish I had thought of this when I was a lawyer writing boring mind numbing disclosures . . .

  45. People are still confusing about FTC policy and their effects.

    We are just waiting to see some basic and easy solution for this.

  46. Tony says:

    Darren, I read this yesterday 12/10/09. But today 12/11/09 I read your disclaimer. I would not have read it, but on this post I did. First of all DON’T YOU EVER QUIT ON WHAT YOUR DOING HERE ON PROBLOGGER!! Second who cares what some think, you do what YOU want and love doing. To me who cares how much you make( yes you have shared this with all of us). Like the saying goes, it takes money to make money. This is your life not anyone elses, just keep doing a great job that you been doing for the last(sorry if i’m wrong, i forget) 5 or so years. A friend told me about problogger last year and ever since I been reading your blog’s daily. Now for me I’m not that great at what you do, but I still come here, even if I don’t comment here it’s nice to read your blog everyday.

    Tony

    P.S. If this isn’t the right place to put this, I am sorry.

  47. mel says:

    cool beans

  48. MichaelR says:

    Another great storytelling, I mean storyselling Darren, Excellent!

  49. accessories says:

    Thanks for this very helpful article!! I’m still fairly new to the blogging world and have only hosted one giveaway. My difficulty is in finding items to disclosure. How do you find companies willing to sponsor –do you just start emailing random companies? I have no idea where to start with this, besides talking to people I know who have their own home businesses.

  50. Thank you for posting. I used your advice and examples to write my FTC disclosure.

    http://bdentzy.com/site-policies/ftc-disclosure/