Have you heard of the Code of Advertising Practice?
Or to give it its proper title, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.
It might not be the snappiest title but it is one that you ought to be familiar with.
For many small businesses, the code is not widely known or understood. But it is a critical aspect of any small business's marketing activities.
The central principle of the CAP code is that all marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful showing responsibility to consumers and society at large.
There are two versions of the code - Broadcast and Non-broadcast. In this post, I will be looking at the Non-Broadcast code.
The code applies to all marketing communications under your control everything from leaflets to websites to social media to email marketing to testimonials. The catch all category of the code that applies to most of the clients I work with is this:
"advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts"
At 126 pages long, the non-broadcast code isn't a quick read. But the good news is that the online version is neatly broken down into bite size chunks covering core business areas and issues. The search facility on the website is very good if you are not quite sure where to look and it also links each section to additional guidance notes which is very helpful.
Every day I see examples of marketing communications on social media or websites that walk very close to the line or even cross over it. Whatever your business area, there are aspects of the CAP code that will apply to you.
Interpreting the code is not always an easy task and staying within the rules can be challenging, especially so for some disciplines and sectors where there are a lot of grey areas. Alternative health disciplines are a great example of these challenges as often the CAP rules are different to those of the appropriate professional body.
Make sure that you are following the rules to protect your business. Bringing in some specialist expertise to advise you on promotion and getting your copy written by a professional with a good knowledge of the code will give you the strongest head start particularly for some of the more challenging fields of business.
If you want to do it yourself, read up on the code and then take advantage of CAP's free copy advice service so you can get expert advice on whether or not your copy complies with the rules. CAP also offer website audits. This is a paid service, which is worth considering if your business operates in a highly regulated discipline such as health or works with/promotes to children for example.