What’s Up with the Lack of Disclosure?

- Fashion, Lifestyle, Shopping


Image via … a great post on how to comply with FTC guidelines!

Okay, first of all… I can’t discuss this subject without first acknowledging my own faults. I am in no way perfect, but at this point, I feel like when I first started getting offered products and/or did sponsored or guest posts that I should have made it very clear on my blog. At that point, I thought it was just how it worked and everyone, including my friends and family who no nothing about the blogging world, would know what c/o means.

So before I go into this subject, here it is: When I am gifted something for free, it will always say c/o next to it (courtesy of). Meaning a brand or company gifted it to me for free to wear and/or review on the blog. I am not a big blogger by any means, but I do share c/o items in outfit posts. I have always found it important to comply with FTC guidelines, but I wish I would have made the gifted items, sponsored posts and affiliate links more clear. Here is an example of my lastest sponsored post. You can the disclosure at both the top and bottom of this post. Here is an example of an outfit post with gifted items. I do my best to make it clear a company has sent me something and try to review the product in detail.

Okay, now to go on about the subject in general. Although I didn’t do a good job of making this clear in the beginning, I have always ALWAYS said c/o next to items I was gifted and ALWAYS used #ad in social media posts related to my sponsored posts. Oh and I always use c/o even if I wear the same item in another outfit post the next day. It’s not only adhering to the guidelines, I think it is respectful to your readers (Thanks to Fran for clarifying: You only have to disclose the first time). I personally still think it is nice to say so every time!

So lately I’ve noticed a few, okay several blogs, making it extremely difficult to figure out what has and has not been gifted to them by a company. Bolding or italicizing your gifted items with no disclosure in the post itself is not making it very clear to me as a reader that this was gifted to you. I shouldn’t have to go to your about page or disclosures page to read: “Hey guys anything in bold was gifted to me.” If that’s how you want to disclose something, just say it at the end of each post! Or I’ve seen no disclosure at all. I have a VERY hard time believing some bloggers who spend thousands of dollars on outfits are shopping at some of the inexpensive places I do. Maybe they are to relate to their audience more, but what if they are just skipping over the guidelines?

Also, I always include #ad or #sponsoredpost in my social media posts. In the past few months, I had an opportunity that didn’t require the #ad in some of the social media posts, which made me scratch my head. You better believe I still included it! Just because I’m hashtagging a media company, doesn’t mean people automatically know who they are and that means it is an ad or sponsored post.

Anyway, I just had to bring this up because I was curious if anyone else was noticing this? And what your opinion is on it in general (regardless of the fact it is REQUIRED)? It is a lack of education on knowing what the guidelines are, or bloggers trying to get around making their audience upset with too many c/o items, sponsored posts, etc.? Also, to be a little less hypocritical, I just added a “DISCLOSURE” widget on my blog to show up on the front page. So basically I suck at this too, but gosh darnit. It really grinds my gears when people aren’t honest!


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  • Reply
    March 19, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    As someone who works in SEO (which you know about as well!), this can also bite you in the butt. If you’re participating in paid links (which the “definition of” is quite different for bloggers vs. Google) you can get caught and penalized. YIKES!

    • Reply
      March 19, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      Oh yes! It is very scary when it comes to Google and other search engines. I have had companies reach out to me to remove links from my blog because they have been penalized (not because I was using paid links, but because I really liked a product on their site and linked to it (this was pre rewardStyle), but they were paying others to place a link on their site). Anyway, I think it is just important to comply to guidelines AND definitely keep updated with SEO. Google can be awesome for blog traffic, but at the end of the day Google does not care about your blog or the way blogs work. They care about satisfying “customers” searching for specific things. Like your article about having an ad as the top banner of your site? I still see so many bloggers doing that!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Well this just sounds crazy! As a fellow blogger, I’ve always known what your c/os were for. Before I started my blog and I was just reading blogs, I did have to look up what C/O was because the blogger in question did not disclose it. After that other bloggers I followed Would always make it fairly apparent. I do know another blogger who italicizes hers and says thanks to. I think it helps to have an FAQ page or LEGAL page where you can explain it. Whenever I find new blogs I explore their pages, so I think that, using the #ad and the c/o would suffice enough for your readers.
    I think it’s lovely that you are so concerned. It shows how much you care about your blog, your brand, and the people who stop by to see you every day.

    • Reply
      March 19, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      Thanks for your comment Ashleigh! And I am, and I’m glad it shows. I want to be honest with my readers or whoever comes here from time to time 🙂 It has just been something on my mind and perhaps that’s why I’m noticing it more. I agree as long as you are doing something to make a note of it and make it apparent to your readers (maybe not the first sentence of each outfit post paragraph), then that should be sufficient!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    This is such a great post. I alway write c/o when I get a gift. Lately I have been bold the item to when I do the review. I also make sure I write a disclose’s on the post to. Sometime I forget to do it when I write the post up. Then I remember later on and do it.

  • Reply
    two birds
    March 19, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I guess I don’t think about it too much. We choose not to do a ton of sponsored ads, but do specify c/o when we get something for free (although I should check and make sure we KEEP saying it after the first post…good point). Great post, Rachel, I love that you care about this!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    I’ve noticed it too. I know that technically the rules are that if you disclosed an item as c/o once, you don’t have to the next time you wear it, but I still think it’s super shady because as a reader, how often do you remember if something was c/o? I just think it’s nice to put it out there every time. Leaves less to questioning, ya know?

    • Reply
      March 19, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      Thanks for clarifying Fran! And I wasn’t sure. I figured you only had to once, but I still do, just to make it clear to my readers. No questions, no confusion, just honesty! Thanks for your input!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    oh yea I know a lot of big bloggers that used to put c/o next to gifted items and now just stopped. Honestly I think some are just embarrassed since almost everything they wear is c/o and I don’t think that’s right.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    I always do c/o, but it never occurred to me to do it on instagram, mainly because when i post to instagram, I don’t feel like my post is really an ad or anything just because I was wearing one c/o item… ya know?

    love this post!

    • Reply
      March 20, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Hey girl! NO I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU! I never say that an item was c/o on my Instagram. That’s not required as far as I know! But if you are doing a sponsored post, like a few weeks ago when I worked with Walgreens, it IS required to say #ad or #sponsoredpost because I got paid to review beauty products from Walgreens. As far as I know, you do not have to say in an outfit post like hey by the way blah blah was gifted to me, only if the WHOLE post is in regards to something you got paid to do. Does that make sense? And good for you for always disclosing! I just think it is so sketchy when people don’t!

      • Reply
        March 21, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        Thanks for your response and your email too:) Yeppp, people who don’t disclose make me slightly angry lol.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    I always, always, always include a line about whether or not I got the item free. It pisses me of when someone doesn’t disclose that it was C/O after the first or second time. I understand that everyone makes mistakes and often times it’s easy to forget but people make a serious habit of it. I also am really, really tired of bloggers instagramming McDonald’s when they are self-proclaimed foodies so you know that suddenly they are getting money. Then sure enough, two weeks later a post about the new burger which is just OMG SO GREAT. No. I will not trust you because you will sell anything and not even disclose it. That is gross and I think says a lot about a person.

    • Reply
      March 20, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      I know you do a great job lady! WHOOT WHOOT! And yes, I agree, it is REALLY weird on the whole Instagram thing. I think it is just a new playing field and people are excited about the opportunity to make money from it, rather than just using it as a tool to fuel their blogs. But if you say you are all healthy and make it a fact ALL the time and then post a picture of McDonald’s burger then yeah. NO. Weird. Not cool. Just stay true to yourself. I’m sure there are plenty of brands that reflect what you like and believe in! And as far as disclosing c/o on the blog, YES please. Just do it.

  • Reply
    Rebecca Ciriaco Sullivan
    March 20, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    Thanks for this informative post Rachel…..disclosure should be a priority to any blogger!


  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Embarrassingly enough, I had no idea these things were required – eek! I’ve always done them as a courtesy to brands that provide me with things and to my readers, but I didn’t know the guidelines were this extensive. I’m glad you can incorporate that something was given to you into your actual writing, rather than plainly stating it at the top. And I think using “c/o” is courteous to your readers, but also respects the brand that sent you something for free!

    I would love if you would do a post sometime on simple/more basic SEO tactics that bloggers can use! I know what SEO is from college, but don’t really know how to use it at all, and also know it changes frequently!

    • Reply
      March 20, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Jacy! Don’t worry about it girl 🙂 I didn’t know at first either. I just saw other bloggers doing it and was like okay, I should say c/o. Then I read FTC guidelines more closely. And of course, with changing social media, etc. they change their guidelines as well!

      And my frustrations in this post are not directed at people who are still learning and/or just didn’t know, hey IT HAPPENS. But it is directed at bloggers who DO know, used to disclose and suddenly just stopped. OR started bolding instead, it just seems sketchy to me. Technically people who bold or italicize and still have a disclosure in their about me, I believe THEY are ok. But to me it seems weird, feel free to bold rather than c/o, but I just wish bloggers would say in that post a little mention: bolded items have been gifted to me. That’s all!

      Keep doing what you’re doing girl! And I would love to do an updated post on SEO! It is confusing already, but it gets even more messy with bloggers in the sense of how we make money and are gifted items. Thanks for posting!

  • Reply
    Sarah Lagen
    March 20, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    This was well said! I agree that people are showing the ‘c/o’ less and less. I find that to be odd and don’t get the motivation behind not putting it out there.

    • Reply
      March 20, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      I agree! Maybe part of my frustration is not understanding. Did they just forget to put it in because they did the post in a rush? or are they trying to make it look like they purchased everything on their own so people trust their opinions more?! I just don’t know. But it seems weird and sketchy to me!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    This is a great post doll!
    Not only does it drive me nuts when bloggers don’t disclose, it REALLY irritates when a vendor/brand reaches out and wants to work with me, and then discourages me to disclose the nature of our relationship. Um, no. What part of “ILLEGAL” is confusing? I had a really negative run-in with a local boutique a few months back that made me beef up my media kit/collab agreements to protect myself.

    Happy Thursday, gorgeous!


    • Reply
      March 21, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      Oh no! I’m sorry to hear about your experience! I’ve had a couple brands contact me with the guidelines of please don’t say this is sponsored. UM HELLO. NO. You are sketchy and now a part of my SPAM email. I had to update my sponsorship page to read “Sponsored posts MUST include disclosure as being a sponsored post via FTC guidelines. If a brand does not want to cooperate with these terms, then there will be no agreement.” I can’t believe that brands/places are encouraging no disclosure behavior. It is sad. Advertising is what makes the world go round, so can’t we all just be honest about it?! No different than an ad in a magazine like looks like a spread, but they are required to say “This is an advertisement”… I just don’t get it!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    This drives me insane! I totally share your sentiment!

  • Reply
    Rachel Trampel
    March 21, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    Of course Rebecca! Thank you for your comment 🙂

  • Reply
    March 24, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Great post, girl! I totally agree. Maybe I just have a guilty conscience by nature, but when I get sent something or do a giveaway, I feel the only right thing to do is to make it very clear to my readers that I am either getting something free or getting paid. It’s as simple as saying “X company sent me this and here’s what I think.”

    Great point on social media posts. Personally, I don’t use any #ad or #sponsored hashtags, but if I post anything about a collaboration, I make sure to say “Today I’m partnering with @brand to do this or that.”

    • Reply
      March 24, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Thanks for your comment Molly! Yes, it is simple. That’s why it bothers me that some people don’t do it. I do believe some of it is education and perhaps not everyone knows about what they need to do. I mean when I started my blog I had absolutely no idea about guidelines for blogs and working with companies. But what I’ve noticed recently is just plain WRONG.

      Anyway, I think Instagram is such a new territory for making money and promoting products that the guidelines aren’t fully established and I completely agree, I don’t think it is necessary to spell out every time you are wearing one item (whether it is jewelry, a shirt, a dress, shoes, etc.) that was gifted to you, but if you are doing a full sponsorship and getting paid to wear items and promote them on your blog (not just getting them for free) then it is required!

      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  • Reply
    Jewel Laura (@StyleOptimist)
    March 27, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    I’m so glad you brought this up. I don’t really think much of FTC guidelines, I guess because I accept c/o far and few in between. This got me thinking though. When a friend or family member gifts me a jewelry item or even clothing, I sometimes will say “gifted” or “gift” by whomever. Which leads me to thinking as to whether I should say gifted from “cousin” friend” or whomever, because my readers cant differentiate if I don’t disclose. great food for thought. Will definitely be picking your brain on this next week, which I’m super excited for by the way!

    • Reply
      March 28, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      YES! I do this too Jewel 🙂 Last Easter my mom gave me two pairs of jeans and a blouse that I immediately wore (and showed on the blog) I said gifted by my mom to make sure it wasn’t confused with just saying gifted. I see a lot of bloggers saying gifted from blah store or brand, so I think it is smart to point this out! Yes I have a lot of questions for you as well! I can’t wait to talk to a bunch of other bloggers and learn from them too! It will be amazing!

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