How can you tell the difference between a good and a bad actor in the financial content creation – blogging, podcasting, and vlogging – space?
Reader, it’s hard.
Today, in service of both my readers and other creators, I’m going to talk in-depth about the issue of ethics in financial content creators. And rather than just discuss the problem, I’ve taken the time to create a solution.
Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.Tina Fey
Frankly, I don’t often “blog about blogging” because, as a writer, my mission is not to help you build your own award-winning blog. I’m not here to tell you how to be featured on CNBC, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, MSN, and Business Insider like I have.
My mission is simple – to help people with their money, work, and frugal family life to ultimately reach financial freedom, while having fun along the way. There are other great resources if you want to learn how to build a blog.
I’ve made an exception today because I feel strongly about ethics. I spoke briefly on the topic at FinCon, and want to dive deeper today.
If you’re a content creator: I ask you to read on, and ultimately to pledge to follow these standards.
If you’re a reader: I ask you to read today’s article, and become a more critical financial content consumer. Ask yourself if the content creators you follow are following these simple standards. And if you also feel strongly about ethics, please share today’s article with others.
Ethics and Financial Content Creation
I’ve been an avid financial blog reader for years (and years) before I started this site two years ago. As a reader, I never really gave a thought to how I could tell a good actor from a bad one. If I enjoyed the blog, I would read it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I would stop. Typically the blogs I like to read are either (1) based on compelling personal stories, or (2) full of technical, heavily researched articles.
I never gave a thought to their ethics, or ethical standards of blogging. Why would I? I enjoyed all this free content. It kept me entertained, educated me, and helped me in my financial path. I was grateful for all these strangers on the internet that spent so much time creating helpful information for me to consume.
The past two years, as a writer and blogger myself, I’ve had the opportunity to dive deep into the financial blogging space. I’ve met some amazing, compelling, passionate people I never would have found otherwise. Folks who will stop at nothing to accomplish their mission to help others. People with amazing stories, great writers, who take hours and hours out of their free time to write in the service of the greater good.
But I’ve also seen the darker side of financial blogging.
- People who write click-bait articles, designed solely to get eyeballs on their page. They’re not trying to help others. They’re trying to make ad revenue. A related situation is when people use their site to tear down others in a disrespectful way. This is also usually to get clicks and eyeballs.
- People who steal others ideas, paragraphs, images, or even whole articles – without giving credit.
- NOTE: This doesn’t apply to free stock photos, or content that explicitly lets you use it without attribution.
- Those that break the laws in place around promotions and affiliate links. Often accidentally, because they’re not aware the laws exist and what they say. But sometimes intentionally, because you can make more money that way.
- People who flagrantly break the rules of various social media platforms, forums, groups, and so on. Why? Because they can get more traffic that way
- Those that don’t care about accuracy or truthfulness. Perhaps they don’t do any actual research on their articles, relying on hearsay instead. Or they don’t publish corrections if they got something wrong. And lets not forget about people that deliberately spin their stories in a certain way in order to get more followers/eyeballs/clicks, leaving out key details that would totally change the way they’re perceived.
If you’re a financial content creator reading this, you’re likely one of the good actors. After all, why would a bad actor take time to read about ethical standards?
A Lack Of Standard Ethics
Why not financial content creators?
Frankly, it’s because we don’t have a governing body. There’s no “certification” that you’re a legitimate financial content creator.
Literally anyone can start a financial blog in five minutes. You don’t have to have financial knowledge, be committed to helping people, pass a test, have a certification, or anything else.
We have no way to identify the good actors, and weed out the bad ones.
Anyone can fire up WordPress and write whatever they want, doing whatever they want. Unless you’re violating an actual law (and get caught doing so) you can put whatever you want to out on the internet.
So today, I’ve created a solution. I’ve created the “Ethical Standards” for digital content creators. The content in the pledge was inspired by conversations with other content creators, and the ethical standards for journalists/CFP’s/CPA’s.
I ask you to read on, take the pledge, and share with others.
Ethical Standards For Digital Content Creators
Truthful and Honest
I pledge to always tell the truth. The truth about my life, my products, my services, potential conflicts of interest, how and whether I make money, and everything else.
I pledge to be honest about my knowledge, background, and motivations. My audience will be clear about the fact that I am not a certified financial professional, their lawyer, and so on.
Abide by the Rules – And The Law
I will abide by the rules set on forums, social media platforms, companies I do business with, and any other platforms I use.
I will abide by copyright law. This means I will not take the content (articles, podcasts, videos, images) of others without permission and proper attribution when required. If I use free stock photos, content, music or videos, I check the licensing requirements to make sure I’m using them properly. I am also familiar with and follow, the copyright fair use guidelines.
If I take credit cards for a product or service, I (and/or my card vendors) are PCI Compliant.
In the event of a data breach, I pledge to follow the laws on security breach notifications.
If I do business in, or have readers/consumers in, the US, I will abide by the FTC Endorsement Guide. This means I will prominently and clearly disclose where and when I am being paid for an endorsement, or receiving payment from an affiliate program, or any other sort of payment
Respect For Others
Even when writing a critical piece, I pledge to be respectful of others
I pledge to make it clear to my audience when I am discussing facts, and when I am providing opinions, of others
Respect For the Property of Others
I will not take the content of others. This means I will not use their writing, images, or other content without proper credit and attribution
I pledge to give credit when using someone elses ideas, or when my content is inspired by that of someone else
I pledge that my content is generally free of conflicts of interest
When a potential conflict of interest exists, I pledge to clearly and prominently disclose that to my audience
I pledge that my content is as accurate and factual as possible. When I write on a topic, I will provide links to appropriate research that backs up what I say.
Since I am human, I recognize that mistakes will occur. When they do, I will correct them promptly
Take The Pledge
If you’re a reader, and you’ve gotten to this point in the article – thank you for caring about ethics in the financial content creation space. I invite you to share this article with others, and help me make financial content creation a better place to be.
If you’re a content creator like myself, committed to a high standard of ethics, I invite you to take the pledge.
Fill out the form below with your name, email, and website. If you take the pledge, I will add your name and a link to your website on this page. I will also send you an image you can display on your website, so your audience will know you’ve taken the pledge. Simply link that image to the ethics page, and your audience will see your website listed.
I won’t use your email for anything other than sending you the image and link to the page, and any future updates on the ethics pledge itself.
Lets work together to make financial content creation an ethical place to be!
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