Testimonials for Small Business – legal problems and solutions.

If you’re a small business, testimonials from happy customers are great to use when encouraging new customers to choose you, rather than your competition.

They can be a key factor deciding whether to work with you or not, so it’s important to get them right. But you need to make certain you have legal permission to use someone’s words, before you go ahead and copy/ paste their comments.  Here’s some important things to note when you’re using testimonials.

Always obtain written consent when using someone’s comments in a testimonial.

For example, someone has raved about your service in a Facebook group public or private. Taking a screenshot and reposting their comments or using part of their comments without their consent raises copyright and privacy breach issues for the following reasons:

  • the post is the writer copyright – at the very least you need to contact the owner of the comments by email and get them to agree in writing to your use of their testimonial.
  • the text of a testimonial may be protected by copyright (as a literary work)
  • logo’s are the business owners copyright – if you want to use the logo of the testimonial provider, you need permission as this is also protected by copyright or trademark

When you seek permission – this could be via a release, an email or even messenger (not as safe as a formal release or email) you need to state what part of their comments you are using, where you will be publishing and how (i.e. print, online etc.)

You also need permission to alter testimonials including correcting grammar or sentence structure etc because it is their copyright.

Ensure the testimonial giver knows their rights.

  • You also need to explain the testimonial giver has the right to request the removal of a testimonial at any time.
  • If you want to use a personal name, and for a testimonial to be credible you should use names, then the testimonial will constitute “personal data” under the GDPR and the Privacy Act.
  • It’s not a given that because a person has purchased your course or program and commented in your Facebook group about how amazing and life-changing the program is that they lose the right to determine how their comments are used or that their comments can be used without their permission.

Best Practice

A great option is to use a Testimonial Form which would contain the above information as a tick box agreement.
Or you could share a testimonial that has been provided on a third-party review platform such as Google Reviews or Facebook reviews.  This allows the person themselves to place the testimonial there for the purpose of providing testimony and has properly identified themselves.

Get permission in writing, clearly stating what content you will/ won’t be using, and whether you’ll be fully or partially identifying the author.  Then be sure you keep a copy of that document, with the original testimonial content.

Avoiding Problems

  • If the person providing a testimonial for you is an employee of the business, or does not have necessary authority, then consider keeping the company name out of it.
  • Take responsibility for protecting the privacy of the person – keep their identifying info, email and phone details private.  If a prospective client wishes to talk directly to a past client, you can arrange a phone call or catch-up if need be.

Testimonials are a great tool to use, as long as they’re used and managed properly.
If you need help managing your legal requirements with your own testimonials, click here to book a quick chat with me, or search my past articles here.

XX Shalini.

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