3-Minute WOM Lesson: 3 key questions to test your agency’s ethical standards

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Most word of mouth and social media agencies are fantastic at what they do and are devoted to doing it ethically and honestly. That said, every week someone is making headlines for a sleazy promotion.

Ultimately, it’s your brand and reputation at stake. Regardless of the budget and the name of the firm you’re working with (it’s surprising how much you can pay to embarrass your company), you need to ask the hard questions.

Here are three big ones to start with (find more in SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit):

1. Do you train employees on ethics and disclosure?
2. Do you use subcontractors? If so, what are their standards?
3. Do you follow-up to ensure proper disclosure?

1. Do you train employees on ethics and disclosure?

If their employees aren’t trained on the laws and rules of disclosure, how are they going to know when they’re doing something wrong? Ask to see the training materials they use and how often it’s updated. You also want to know if every person working on your account has had this training (not just the senior staff), because some of the biggest risks come from the well-meaning junior staffer who just doesn’t know the law.

2. Do you use subcontractors? If so, what are their standards?

Your agency may have a fantastic disclosure policy, but if they bring in a subcontractor (who further hires another subcontractor) you’re just as liable and will be just as humiliated when they do something dumb. Find out who your agency hires and for what. Ask to see any subcontractor’s disclosure and ethics policies, and push your firm to make sure all subcontractors meet or exceed your standards.

3. Do you follow-up to ensure proper disclosure?

Policies and standards are one thing, but how does your agency ensure they’re being upheld? Do they track, monitor, and follow-up with their employees and any bloggers or influencers they work with? You want your agency to find and correct any ethical issues before you, your boss, or the press do.

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