It’s a big day and a big week for me. Tonight my friend and marketing partner Joel Comm and I are launching the FTC Toolkit and Site Compliant system tonight on a Webinar (sign up here) to help people become and remain compliant with the new FTC rules and guidelines for use of testimonials and endorsements in marketing and advertising. These rules are going to affect almost every marketer selling products and services to customers in the United States, because most marketers use testimonials somewhere in their campaigns.
I’ve been working on this day and night since the new rules were released on October 5th. And, I’m not alone–I put together a full team of legal, editorial, marketing, and technical pros to bring this product and system together as quickly as possible, with the most thorough tools and systems as we could in time for people to implement our recommendations before the new FTC rules become effective 21 days from today on December 1, 2009.
This has really been a ride, and I hope it’s a ride that is just starting to gain speed.
It came together like this.
On Monday, October 5, 2009 – just 5 weeks ago, the FTC released the new rules. Joel sent me a quick email as he was getting on a plane to return from London after a speaking gig saying that when he got back into the office that Wednesday, he was going to have questions about how the rules were going to affect his information product business. On Tuesday the 6th I downloaded and did a quick review on the rules. Joel and I had some brief conversations on Wednesday. That night, the 7th, I got home and felt something I can only describe as a “vibration.”
I was vibrating inside, kind of out of sync, excited and a bit off balance. I knew something was about to happen and as soon as I identified that my vibrating had something to do with the FTC rules (but not what yet), I knew I had to clear my schedule on Thursday the 8th and really engage my full attention on the rules.
So, I cleared my schedule to the best of my ability on Thursday the 8th, dug in, and wrote my initial blog post with analysis of the major issues that affect the businesses of my information entrepreneur clients. I sent the draft essay to a friend to proof-read before I posted it. The 8th was my daughter’s 6th birthday, so I knocked off work early to cook her favorite dinner (my famous garlic roast chicken and mashed potatoes). While cooking I came up with the idea to expand (greatly) on the essay and create a product with analysis, standard disclosures, forms, stock agreements, enforcement letters, etc to help every marketer understand the rules, bring their marketing into compliance, and remain compliant as enforcement actions by the FTC clarify the rules through real-life actions instead of the hypothetical examples included in the rules.
I emailed my friend Joel Rothman with the idea because I knew it was too big of a task to do on my own. Joel Rothman is a leading attorney in the area of nutritional supplements law (a major area/target of the FTC with these rules), and an intellectual property litigator. Rothman and I met and became friends when I needed back-up on the iFart v. Pull My Finger iPhone trademark litigation. I knew he would be interested and be the perfect lawyer to bring into the team. Rothman and I scheduled a call for Monday the 12th to discuss working together on the project. I went back to cooking and had a great birthday celebration with the most incredible little girl on the planet.
The next morning the edited version of my essay came back and I posted it to my blog and shared it with Joel Comm to see what he thought. My blog traffic was spiking to an all-time one-day high in unique visitors, then Joel asked if he could post it to his blog at www.joelcomm.com as a guest blogger. Of course I said “YES” because Joel’s blog is one of the most-visited and most respected internet entrepreneurship blogs on the planet. Traffic spiked again. I knew this was going to be something big because my body and spirit started vibrating again. I was already getting blogtalkradio.com guest requests.
Monday came. At about 2pm I had the conversation with Joel Rothman. He introduced me to Hugo Ottolenghi, a very experienced business journalist and editor. We decided to work together to put together the “FTC Toolkit” product. I decided to bring in another lawyer friend, Julie Yates, to help craft the standard disclosures, agreements, and policy documents. The legal authoring team was in place. I left the office to pick up my kids.
While I was running an errand with the kids on the way home my cell phone rang. It was Joel Comm, my internet marketing client. Joel said “this FTC thing is big, how about we do a paid conference call where you answer some questions for everyone?” I replied “how about I let you know Rothman and I are putting together an info-product on that topic.” Comm replied “you’re thinking big, how about we do a joint venture and run this though my team and go big.” I said “sure” and we scheduled a meeting on Wednesday morning in Joel Comm’s office, with his marketing and technical team in the room and my legal writing team on the phone. (Rothman and Ottoleghi are in Florida.)
On the morning of Wednesday, October 14th, the team met and the FTC Toolkit and the Site Compliant program and trust seal were born. Then we went to work. We knew we had to move fast, but be thorough. After all, there was a lot of analysis that needed to be done, and we had to have the product ready to launch well BEFORE the rules go into effect on December 1, 2009. We set what is normally considered a VERY aggressive launch date: November 10, 2009, with a pre-launch Webinar on November 9th.
Now, the Webinar is only a few hours away and almost all the seats are spoken for. The days and weeks since that meeting on October 14th have been intense with early mornings, late nights, and weekends of working on the project. (and trying to serve clients during the day too…).
Tonight the energetic vibration I felt on October 7th manifests as the launch of the FTC Toolkit and the Site Compliant system. This project is motivated by an intention to serve as many people as we possibly can. I believe in helping small businesses (and large businesses) reach their potential. I think the creativity found in small business is divine. Helping businesses understand these FTC rules and stay out of trouble is an opportunity that came out of the blue, but I feel the idea was inspired, and so was the action, or else the team would not have been able to put such a comprehensive system together so quickly. Honestly, I hope a lot of people invest in the Toolkit and join the Site Compliant program, but even if they don’t, I’m still incredibly proud of the work we’ve done in the last few weeks and look forward to seeing how the next chapter of this adventure unfolds.
Later this week I get to travel to Reno, NV to present to Continuing Legal Education workshops at a bar association event. Thursday morning I lead a session based on my book Fuel the Spark: 5 Guiding Values for Success in Law and Life, and that afternoon I do a session on Social Media for Attorneys.
Big week. Wish me luck.