PRCA questions for the ASA

The PRCA is to meet with the ASA on Thursday 30 September to better understand how proposed changes to the CAP Code could impact on public relations and communications professionals. This document has been put together with input from PRCA members and is intended to highlight the subjects that we intend to raise with the ASA before feeding back to the industry. We believe that we know the answers to a small number of the questions below, but do not want to make presumptions.

While PRCA members do not appear to welcome the ASA's announcement (see survey below the questions), the aim of the PRCA delegation is to clarify our members' many questions before looking at how best to ensure that their interests are represented.

If you would like to suggest further questions, or have any other comments/contributions, please email richard.ellis@prca.org.uk
 
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Definition of who the code will apply to

  • Will the extended remit apply to all organisations? or will it be limited to those registered to specific bodies, for example?
  • Will it apply to individuals as well as organisations?
  • What jurisdiction does the ASA have both to implement these new elements of the code and to enforce them?
  • Does the ASA's remit extend to communications that build brand (with no incentivising to buy)? and to crisis communications?
  • How are press releases and public relations materials defined? Ie are blogs PR, does anything appearing in earned media automatically get excluded from the code's remit.

Definition of when the organisation will be responsible for content

Given that everyone is now effectively a publisher, how far will the brands responsibilities stretch

  • What does the ASA define as ‘non-paid-for-space under their control?'
  • Definition of which channels the organisation will be considered responsible for.  1) Channels where it has total control of the channel - ie own website…? if so, would this include open forums? comments on blogs? etc 2) Channels where it is ‘renting' space ie facebook - it cannot control the content within the space and removing content posted by others is against the ethos of social media..
    3) Channels where it has joined the party - ie twitter. It has a presence, but only it's own messages are within its control. 4) Other... 
  • Will organisations be responsible for all content about them, i.e. correcting errors or misleading comments in conversational spaces online?
  • How will more informal UGC and conversations around the brand be classed? Will organisations be responsible for brand representation?
  • If a brand advocate is unconnected but is effectively acting as a representative of the brand, will the company be required to monitor and seek to rectify content that does not fit within the CAP guidelines?
  • What will be classed as official and unofficial brand communications? for example, will claims made by staff count as official communications? Would this stretch to a suppliers' endorsements?
  • Will organisations be responsible for personal opinion about the brand? If so, who's personal opinions will it be responsible for?

Has the ASA got the buy-in of other relevant bodies

  • Have the social media sites agreed to cooperate? Do they have any concerns?
  • Have the search engines agreed to cooperate? Do they have any concerns?
  • Have the ISPs got any involvement?

How much will the ASA be able to invest in making this happen?

  • Will the body be entirely reactive?
  • Will they proactively look for evidence of astroturfing?
  • What other challenges do they anticipate in developing and enforcing the new code?

Will this code provide any additional burden on ethical PROs?

  • Will PROs need to monitor their employees more closely?
  • Will they be responsible for content that they do not themselves generate?
  • Are/have other countries implemented similar codes? Or does this risk leaving british marketers at a disadvantage?

Specific sectoral issues

  • Which sectors have they identified as being in need of specific additional rules or exemptions?
  • What changes do they anticipate the extension of their remit having around marketing to children, around financial services and around healthcare?
  • What challenges do they anticipate in trying to regulate these areas in particular?

Sanctions

  • What will be the range of sanctions?
  • When will a sanction be fulfilled? - ie cached content, users outside the organisations control breaking the code.
  • What steps would they expect companies to take in regard to monitoring and rectification?
  • Is there a window in which offenders can amend their communications prior to public adjudication?
  • When would the first adjudications be expected?

General points

  • The CAP code covers non-broadcast marketing communications. What does that mean for video/audio online?
  • Beyond the ASA discussions about self-regulation, how does this fit with other legislation afoot? Are there any plans for statutory regulation along the lines of the FTC blogger guidelines or an extension to the European misleading advertising regulations? We also have the Bribery Act on the horizon here. In financial services, the FSA has recently issued new guidelines. In contrast, OFT is strangely silent on all of this...

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RESULTS OF SURVEY OF PRCA MEMBERS ABOUT ASA ANNOUNCEMENT

Q1. CAN SOCIAL MEDIA BE REGULATED?

  • No - 59%
  • Not Sure - 12%
  • Yes - 29%

Q2. DOES SOCIAL MEDIA NEED REGULATING?

  • It cannot be regulated - 18%
  • No - 35%
  • Not Sure - 6%
  • Yes - 41%

Q3. WHAT WOULD BE THE MOST EFFECTIVE FORM OF REGULATION FOR SOCIAL MEDIA?

  • Guidelines and/or Code of Conduct - 41%
  • It cannot be regulated - 41%
  • No Regulation - 6%
  • Other - 6%
  • Regulatory Body - 6%

Q4. WHICH OF THE STATEMENTS BELOW BEST DESCRIBES YOUR REACTION TO THE ASA'S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT IT IS TO REGULATE SOCIAL MEDIA?

  • Other - 6%
  • Social Media cannot be regulated - 17%
  • The ASA is not the right body to regulate Social Media - 44%
  • The implications of the announcement are still unclear - 33%
  • We welcome it - 0%
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