The time I nearly got sued by a celebrity TV chef…
“They want £1,000 by the end of the day. Or they’ll SUE.”
That’s what my client yelled at me down the phone.
A call that also gave me a priceless lesson on COMPLIANCE.
This call took place over 10 years ago…
…back when I’d just got started in copywriting, and thought I could rewrite the rulebook.
An attitude that quickly cost me.
As I’m prone to do, I’d developed a technique for jazzing up press releases where I’d crowbar hot topics into the lead.
I guess you could call it ‘newsjacking’ (Seth Godin, you’re welcome).
But my ‘newsjacking’ method backfired spectacularly when I used a story of ALLEGED food poisoning (it turned out to be a shellfish virus) at a Michelin starred restaurant to promote a new range of hygienic kitchen shelving.
Well, you can guess what happened.
The Michelin restaurant’s owner (who happens to be a celebrity TV chef) got his lawyers to send my client an email demanding compensation and an apology published by the end of the day.
This was my first and ONLY dalliance with lawyers (touch wood).
People I quickly discovered have a ruthless knack for flipping the intention behind your words.
The good news is I only had to pay £1,000 and the case got closed.
The even BETTER news is it gave me the fright I needed to tighten up my legal game.
Ever since, I’ve pushed back whenever I’ve been asked to make dodgy claims that can springboard both me and my client into legal hot water.
Whether it’s inventing testimonials…
blatantly attacking competitors…
quoting celebrities without their consent…
or making ingredient claims based on weak science…
…to this day, ANY claims on legal shaky ground trigger memories of THAT phone call, and a looming TERROR I never want to feel again.
Sure, some clients think I’m a party pooper, and should just chill the heck out.
But I know they’d be MUCH LESS impressed if I agreed to making outrageous claims that get the Alphabet agencies knocking.
Well, this is exactly what’s happened to the biggest publisher in our industry.
A publisher you’d think would have the most stringent compliance lawyers in the land.
But it seems a few memos got lost, because they’re now getting hammered by the FTC for extreme claims like these:
– A simple and scientifically proven protocol that can permanently cure type 2 diabetes in 28 days, without any changes in diet or exercise and with a “100 percent success rate.”
– An hour-long video that claims the “hidden cause” of type 2 diabetes is Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR) exposure from everyday electronic devices like computers, televisions, and cell phones.
I can imagine their offices are in meltdown right now.
They must be losing their minds thinking about all the risque claims they’ve made over the years.. claims the folks at the FTC are no doubt printing off and compiling into a drawstring file.
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident.
Supplements and natural health publishers get slapped all the time for non-complient claims (and not just on Facebook, where it’s par for ths course).
But a lot of the time it’s down to lack of awareness and thinking, cause it’s advertising, they can get out of jail with the ‘puffery’ card.
So about a year ago, to help my natural health clients get to grips with what’s allowed (and brush up my knowledge at the same time) I created my ‘FTC Supplement Guidelines – Turn a Minefield into a Trust Tree‘.
It outlines what you can and can’t say in an easier to understand way than the legalese jargon you’ve got to wade through on the FTC’s website.
Even better, it outlines how compliance can be turned into a marketing advantage when you use it to build rapport and trust.
So if you’re writing offers in natural health for clients, check it out.
It may save them and YOU a ton of money.
Even better, it will avoid a phone call that risks giving you a heart attack.