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What’s the Fuss About Influencer Marketing? Yet Another Spin on Reputation Management

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By Melanie Yunk | February 26, 2017

Recently, we’ve explored a few topics around business reputation management and customer review acquisition. Now, we will look deeper into paid influencer marketing and sponsored content, yet another tactic for proactive reputation management.

At Roaring Pajamas, we believe that managing a business’ reputation proves a mission-critical task. As part of reputation management, we recommend proactively seeking customer reviews on online review sites to help drive increased awareness, interest and business. Influencer marketing is yet another way a business can proactively manage a reputation. Since paid influencer marketing and sponsored content effectively equate to advertising, a business must fully understand the legality around engaging with a blogger, social media influencer, media personality or even a celebrity for endorsement of products or services.

The FTC Endorsement Guides reigns supreme on all legal matters around sponsored content. The Guides reflects the truth in advertising law and are regularly updated to ensure currency with marketing tactics - particularly paid influencer marketing tactics such as sponsored posts on blogs and social media. The Guides indicate that people who receive compensation to promote or review a product should disclose that relationship clearly and conspicuously, stating:

“Endorsements must be honest and not misleading. An endorsement must reflect the honest opinion of the endorser and can’t be used to make a claim that the product’s marketer couldn’t legally make. In addition, the Guides say if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”

All very straightforward and understandable, but we wanted to get the inside scoop on best - and legal - practices directly from a real-life influencer. With the goal of creating guidelines for businesses looking to jump into the paid influencer marketing game, and to wade through the intricacies of disclosing paid or in-kind product or service reviews, we asked Adriele of StyleAssisted for her expert advice. Adriele, a style and beauty blogger, often works with brands on product reviews. We knew we could count on her to explain both the legal and ethical responsibilities a business must understand before delving into the world of sponsored content. And, in the vein of full transparency, Adriele shared her expertise with us and, in exchange, Roaring Pajamas will train her on key SEO tactics. (See how that works? Honest, upfront and a win-win!)

Adriele kindly explained to us her approach to sponsored content and influencer marketing, which ensures she remains both completely legal in the eyes of the FTC and authentic to her readers and followers. Across all StyleAssisted channels, Adriele

  • Always errs on the side of caution and carefully removes any potential appearance of impropriety
  • Never reviews a product or service she doesn’t like and wouldn’t buy otherwise
  • Always clearly discloses sponsored content
  • Always makes it clear when she reviews a product or services for which she was not compensated, thus erring on the side of caution and assuming that someone believes it is sponsored

Trustworthiness and authenticity are character traits Adriele holds dear personally, but also professionally; readers and followers respond to someone they trust, someone on whom they can rely to tell them the honest truth. This not only allows her to sleep at night but is a bankable business policy for the StyleAssisted brand.

To put paid influencer marketing best practices into action, Adriele offers these insights:

  • Larger brands typically use contracts that state exactly how and where sponsorship must be disclosed. Some brands insist that the reviewer state the relationship at the very top of the post or at the start of a video, and some provide the actual language and hashtags to be used.
  • Smaller brands may not use contracts with such detailed information, so it is up to the reviewer to determine the appropriate way to disclose the relationship.
  • Sponsored posts on social media must always very clearly include #ad or #sponsored. Note that even on Twitter, with a 140 character limit, sponsorship still requires disclosure. Don’t worry, though, #ad only takes up three characters and keeps you out of heaps of trouble!
  • For gifted products, bloggers and influencers typically indicate an item is “c/o and a link to XYZ company.” This notation indicates that the item was given by/in care of a specific company.

Finally, Adriele also reminded us that the business is ultimately responsible for what a paid third party - blogger or otherwise - does and says on the business’ behalf. In fact, the FTC Guide make this point very clear in stating,

“Your company is ultimately responsible for what others do on your behalf.”

With Adriele’s insights and our own experience in initiating blog marketing campaigns for clients, we arrived at simple recommendations for a business to use when considering sponsored content. Influencer marketing allows a business to engage with new audiences, gain exposure and showcase products or services through the blogs, social media and other channels of an outside person. However, a business must be cognizant of the legal and ethical issues surrounding this practice. To that end, here are Roaring Pajamas’ three key guidelines for businesses that engage in paid influencer marketing:

  1. Clear Disclosure: Paid - in kind or in cash - reviews or endorsements by third parties must be very clearly disclosed at the onset of a post or statement. This includes disclosure of special discounts available only to the person reviewing the product or service.
  2. Truthful Statements and Practices: Reviews and endorsements of a product or service by a third party must be truthful and accurate. Plus, clear disclosure of a compensated relationship and an accurate depiction of a product or services behooves a business for legal reasons, but also to remain trustworthy in the eyes of the target audience - be it a potential or existing consumer, customer, client or patient.
  3. No Ignorance: Claiming ignorance on how - or if - a paid influencer marketing relationship is disclosed doesn’t fly; a business is responsible for what others do on its behalf. A detailed contract with specifications for placement and wording around disclosure helps to ensure proper and legal execution of sponsored content.

At Roaring Pajamas, we firmly believe in proactive management of a business reputation and are proponents of using all available methods to achieve a positive and accurate characterization of a business in all forms of media. We encourage our clients to consider paid influencer marketing and content, and we even strategize and execute on these tactics for them. We always insist on transparency and truth in advertising and work hard to find influencers who appropriately reflect a brand and do so with utmost authenticity and integrity.

Do you have experience with influencer marketing? We’d love to hear your views and best practices!

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