How Should PR Pros Disclose Client Tweets?

Since the FTC's new endorsement regulations go into effect today, I figured now would be a good time to blog about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — how do you provide proper disclosure in tweets, with only 140 characters to do so? Most recently, tennis player Serena Williams came under fire for twittering about Nabisco without saying she was shooting a commercial for them in one of her tweets.

However, the issue for PR professionals is more about how to disclose when we’re twittering about clients. In a Forbes.com video, O’Reilly Media consultant Joshua-Michele Ross says that as long as publicists state in their Twitter bios that they tweet about clients, that should be enough. However, bios are limited to just 160 characters, and I couldn’t even fit all of my clients’ names in there if I tried.

Common practice has been to include “(client)” in a tweet about one of the companies you represent, which I usually try to do — unless it doesn’t fit in the allotted space. In fact, Twitter’s new retweeting system makes this even more difficult, since it doesn’t allow retweeters to modify the text of the original tweet. In the past, when I’ve retweeted a client, I’ve added “(client)” into the tweet after their username, but Twitter no longer allows you to do that. I’ve also wondered about what to do when colleagues ask me to twitter about their clients — do I have to specify that the company mentioned is represented by my firm, but not me personally? Where do we draw the line?

I think CMP.ly offers an interesting solution to this predicament. It allows Twitter users to append a 16-character link to their tweets, which brings visitors to a Web page that further specifies the relationship between the twitterer and the subject of the tweet. So if I twittered about a client, I would include the link “http://cmp.ly/4" in my tweet, and curious clickers would see that I have a business relationship with the brand I mentioned. Except for the retweeting issue, CMP.ly seems like a good answer to me. But for now, the answer seems to be that nobody really has the answer.

—Alyssa