There was much anticipation in the social media world last week as the FTC came out with their newly updated Guide covering endorsements and testimonials in advertising (PDF) – it was time, they were last updated in 1980! The implications of this update are covered very nicely in this Slidehare version of a webinar from WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association):

It will be interesting to see how the travel and tourism industry, in particular ski resorts, adopts these updated guidelines. To me this is because ski resort PR has traditionally involved offering up anything from a comp day ticket up to an entire “Fam trip” to journalists or other interested parties that providing coverage  of the resort. Resorts typically have policies about who might receive these comps, but don’t require any sort of disclosure (at least that I’m aware of).

From now on, I think that resorts should require some sort of signed document at time of ticket pick up, stating that the person using the product will disclose the comp as per the new FTC guidelines. The difficult part for ski resorts and travel/tourism in general is that there are many journalists who aren’t covered under the guidelines for when they are writing for their media outlet, but those journalists also have their own blogs now which are covered by the guidelines.

An additional element of this guideline update will be the off-hand mentions on other social networks like Twitter or Facebook by people that have received comp tickets or passes such as “Great day on the slopes at ____”  because according to the guidelines, that needs to have disclosure. This will not be easy to ensure and I know that many of these will slip through the cracks.

And, I haven’t even touching on the myriad of review sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp which already have their own review policies in place, but now may wind up being compelled to work with the FTC to ensure appropriate disclosure of any “material connection” to anyone writing reviews.

I know that many brands and bloggers will, both intentionally and unintentionally, push the envelope on these new guidelines so it’s going to be interesting to watch. But, to me, the key takeaway regarding these new guidelines for ski resorts is to be sure to be completely transparent and disclose any “material relationship” online and also monitor to ensure that people that have these relationships with your resort are doing so as well. What do you think about how ski resorts should adopt the new guidelines?