ASBPE adds webinar ethics section to its Guide To Preferred Editorial Practices

Timely guidance for B2B editorial and publishing staffs

Under what circumstances should B2B editors avoid being involved in webinar presentations?

This is a question staffs are wrestling with as more marketing teams cultivate webinar programs as a revenue source.

With sponsored webinars, one concern is that editors will be cast as spokespersons for an advertiser’s products.

To clarify what is and isn’t proper procedure, ASBPE has added a webinar ethics section to its Guide to Preferred Editorial Practices.

The need to create this section was spurred by an inquiry ASBPE’s ethics committee received from a Society member who was developing webinar guidelines for his company.

“We were impressed with the scope of the draft provided to us,” says committee chair Howard Rauch. “Many B2B staffs have no written ethics guidelines covering any editorial matter. For webinars, the inquiry clearly was timely, so we immediately moved to develop our own version.”

The committee review involved extensive, vigorous discussion. A separate summary of discussion highlights will be published in ASBPE’s member newsletter.

Below is an excerpt of the new webinar guidelines:

ASBPE recognizes two types of webinars: editorial-controlled and non-editorial-controlled (e.g., controlled by advertising).

1. Editorial-controlled webinars: The editor has full and final control of the topics, speaker selection, webinar agenda, and other relevant matters.

Editors may seek and accept advice about all matters as they deem appropriate and are the final decision-makers in all cases (including the selection of an advertiser or potential advertiser as a speaker.)

Sponsorships or advertising for editorial webinars may be sold, but sponsors are not allowed to preview the content of the webinar (in much the same way as they would not see a preview of a print publication before advertising in it.) In an editorial webinar, sponsors may be thanked by the moderator and given some time to present information about their companies.

2. Non-editorial-controlled webinars: the editor does not have full and final control of the topics, speaker selection, webinar agenda, and other relevant matters.

The lack of editorial control might be due to a publisher’s decision to control the content and speakers or the publisher giving that control to a sponsor or advertiser or other non-editorial person. Thus, advertisers might pay to have their representative included as a speaker or even determine the webinar topic.

Even if the material presented is instructive in nature, such webinars must be treated as paid or bartered content. Editorial staff members must not be directly involved in the creation or production process. Further, editors should not participate in the “live” webinar, including introducing, moderating, or speaking. For non-editorial-controlled webinars, the publisher or a member of the sales staff, or other non-editorial staff person is the appropriate choice for moderator.

“Somewhere down the road, we expect to modify these guidelines,” Rauch said. “The committee welcomes all suggestions concerning any webinar ethics matter we may have overlooked.”

See the complete ethics guide