As noted in a recent blog post, the FTC is beginning to lower the boom on PR firms and marketers that are flaunting its disclosure policies regarding social and consumer generated media. The watchdogs are going after firms that use "pseudo bloggers" to post positive reviews or comments as part of a marketing campaign. 

The FTC holds the position that agencies have the same duty to disclose marketing relationships as their clients do. The Commission is also going after individuals - not just the agency but the owners themselves. This puts real teeth into policy. 

Marketers need to understand that utilizing social media to create buzz is great - as long as the buzz is coming from legitimate sources. Having agencies generate buzz by posting positive reviews or comments without disclosing a relationship can have serious consequences for all parties. 

Both marketing executives and their agencies need to have clear policies and guidelines established regarding employee participation in social media, and those policies need to be enforced. Employees need to be notified and kept current on these policies to ensure compliance. 

Ultimately, having the FTC take these actions and laying the ground rules is a good thing. It provides for a level playing field and allows legitimate marketing and publicity agencies to do their job. Generating interest by offering a superior product or service and letting your customer do your marketing is a great benefit of getting your word out through news stories, events and publicity.