Stephen Hartzell, chair of the Carolinas Chapter of the Federal Communications Bar Association ("FCBA"), led members of the North Carolina Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the FCBA in a discussion of the law and regulation around the blurring lines between PR and Advertising. Together, communications professionals and attorneys reviewed best practices, pitfalls and shifting regulation in these areas.
The event initiation read:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has regulatory and enforcement authority over advertising in any media on any platform, including both “new” digital and social media platforms as well as “traditional” print and broadcast. Understanding how and when to include disclosures to identify a sponsor can be a challenge for “native advertising” that is often integrated with editorial content (for example, “sponsored content” or recommendation widgets). Public relations professionals have long recognized that a story is far more valuable than purchased space. This roundtable will address key issues to consider when using content that may look “editorial”-- and might even have been written by a journalist --but inhabits the popular “native advertising” space between traditional advertising and traditional PR.
The FTC also regulates endorsements and testimonials across online and “non-traditional” media platforms. Online contests and sweepstakes are governed by state and federal laws, as well as by a new category of “private laws” established by social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for promotional efforts using those tools. Awareness of the expectations for these purposes is critical to brand reputation.