It should go without saying that quality content should always be accurate, no matter what the niche. However, when it comes to industries that are strictly regulated, it is even more important to be as accurate as possible. When it comes to finance and health content, one false or misleading statement can have serious consequences from both a legal as well as an ethical perspective, so it pays to get it right the first time, every time. Let’s look at why the government regulates those two industries as strictly as they do.
Have You Seen the News Today?
Perhaps this one simple illustration will tell you just how serious consumer advocacy groups are when holding businesses accountable. Just about every day of the week you will see one product or brand being targeted with a class action lawsuit. Reasons vary from suit to suit, but the crux of the matter remains pretty much the same. Either the product didn’t perform as it was advertised to do, or it was dangerous beyond what the manufacturer disclosed.
One of the things which content creators need to be very clear about is the extent to which they are disclosing a potential flaw in design or ingredients. While you always want to paint the client in the best possible light, there comes a point when you may be making it up as you go. It sounds good and it will make the client look good, so why not?
Actually, the bottom line stops with the client. In order to get real quantifiable results, it is first necessary to gather data. That data is then analyzed using very specific criteria. When making any kind of prediction or forecast using this model, it is imperative to run those numbers several times because the law doesn’t see a mistake. Courts can only rule on what you’ve said, not what you meant and that is the job of a content creator. Quality content is based on factual, quantifiable data which can be described in a colorful way, but that description cannot deviate from fact.
Consequences for False or Misleading Statements
The agency you need to be worried about as a content creator would be the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This is the government body that oversees all marketing and advertising on any media including:
And anywhere you create and post content. This government body is very strict and if you are at all concerned about even the slightest statement or assertion you’ve made, it is imperative that you check your facts and check them again.
The Mission of the FTC
According to the mission of the Federal Trade Commission, anything that can have an impact on a consumer’s finances or health is given strict priority. Not only will the content creator get served a notice for false or misleading content but so too will the website’s owner and anyone else who has a stake in the content in question. This would also include claims about health products, health foods, food and:
- Dietary supplements
- OTC drugs
But in light of a global pandemic, the FTC’s recent efforts have also been investigating several instances of misleading information in relation to treatments that are ‘proven to work’ with no substantiation, no peer reviews, and nothing of any value other than marketing strategies without any supporting data.
Does It Pay to Have In-House Content Creators?
If you are launching a new product line or a new brand, you may be wondering if an in-house team would be a less expensive route to take. It may be but if you don’t have a marketing pro on your team who is well versed in the legal side of content writing, it may be better to hire a professional team that has a background in data driven content that meets or exceeds government regulations.
A Closer Look at Data
One thing to keep in mind is that you can easily fall prey to trying to manipulate the data you have gathered. It’s rather easy to do but you will be fooling no one but yourself. Those fines are hefty, and the FTC has seen every trick in the book. Therefore, if you’ve come up with some groundbreaking idea to lead consumers astray, it’s better that you stop right there. If you can do it, they can spot it and it won’t go well for you or your client.
Sometimes It’s What You Don’t Say
Bear in mind that the Federal Trade Commission has one sole purpose and that is to protect consumers. Sometimes leaving important data or information out is just as misleading, if not more so, than anything you could include. So, if you are touting the benefits of an herbal supplement in which a significant portion of the test subjects suffered excruciating headaches or perhaps had severe allergic reactions, that is not something you could ethically leave out. The moment you post that there was a random study or that a separate lab ran tests for you the FTC will want copies of everything so that they can have access to any claims you are making, or in this case, failing to note.
It Is Always Better to Err on the Side of Caution
As a final note, there will be times when you truly believe in a product you are marketing. However, if you are given results that taken up just a notch would mean a surefire sale, don’t do it! It is far better to stay in a widow instead of trying to make that reach. This is especially true after the year we’ve just experienced with COVID. No matter how you ‘feel’ about a product or service, if it cannot be substantiated beyond a shadow of a doubt by a third-party reviewer. Even a small lapse in judgement can bring the whole house of cards tumbling down. Again, if you have to err? Always err on the side of caution. They can’t fault you for that!