How to Mobilize a Strategy to Prevent Social Media Litigation

Michael Lasky, partner at the law firm Davis & Gilbert and outside legal counsel for the Council of Public Relations Firms, provides 10 steps organizations can use to protect themselves from social media litigation.
•    Marketers should advise bloggers with whom they have a material connection (e.g., provide payment or free product [in certain instances], blog service, etc.) to disclose their relationship with the marketer whenever making a positive review about the marketer or its products or services.
•    Marketers should monitor their bloggers to ensure that they make the necessary disclosures and that their statements are not misleading or unsubstantiated. If a blogger does not make the necessary disclosures or makes misleading or unsubstantiated statements about the marketer’s products, the marketer should cease sponsoring the blogger and take steps necessary to halt the publication of misleading or unsubstantiated representations when they are discovered.
•    If hiring a blog service, the marketer should confirm that the service provides guidance and training to its bloggers to ensure that the necessary disclosures are made and the statements made by bloggers are truthful and substantiated.
•    Employees of the marketer or its PR firm should clearly disclose their relationship to the marketer if posting messages on online discussion boards.
•    Marketers should institute written policies and procedures concerning the rules by which their employees participate in “social media participation.”
•    “Street team” members who receive any form of consideration for promoting a marketer’s products (e.g., rewards points) should disclose their connection to the marketer and the marketer should take steps to ensure that these disclosures are being provided.
•    When celebrities are paid for promoting products in media, such as talk shows, interviews and social media sites (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.), they should disclose their relationship with the marketer.
•    Spokespeople should undergo enhanced media training to ensure they understand what disclosures must be made in media, such as talk shows, interviews and social media sites (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and what representations they can make about the marketer’s product.
•    In determining the appropriate level of disclosure, consider the likely audience for the blog, social media site or other venue on which the communication is being made. Ask yourself whether the intended audience of the message is likely to be deceived without the disclosure of some fact or circumstance.
•    Seek advice from experienced legal counsel to help you determine in particular situations when the marketer and its public relations firms are complying with the revised FTC guides.