Standing for your rights is the way to go. Jennifer is a prime example of this. Read this account of how she dealt with the ASA and the instigators of the complaint against her.
By Jennifer Hautman homeopath BA (Hons), MA, BSc (Hons), RSHom
Late last year (2013) I received a complaint from the ASA, and what followed was one of the best things that has happened for my business (though no thanks to the intentions of the ASA), and I continue to get new enquiries regularly as a result.
When I was contacted by the ASA I got in touch with my insurance company. They had nothing to say to me whatsoever, other than suggesting I might want to change my website. Now that the Society of Homeopaths has been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), I am concerned that, based on the experiences of Acupuncturists, Nutritionists and Chiropractors I work with, the SoH will now be expected to police its members to comply with the ASA. Instead, however, I will be writing to the SoH to demand that they apply for Advertising Certification with the GRCCT themselves, and start working with Freedom 4 Health rather than the ASA., and encourage all their members to do the same. (Ed.: See the article on our site explaining this further here.)
The whole issue with the ASA initially caused stress, mainly as it was quite time consuming consulting with various colleagues when figuring out what to do, which is why I’d like to spare others all that work as much as possible, by showing them my example, and telling everyone there is no need to fear the ASA. You can use them to promote yourself, your profession, and educate the public in the process. It did affect my business as I had to spend time writing letters and working on my website etc. instead of other work I would have done, but now my business is growing as a result of the steps I took then.
Now that we have the GRCCT offering Advertising Certification, this is an ideal opportunity to press all our Professional Bodies to apply for certification, to be our guinea pigs if you like, and to do so ourselves. Then armed with our certificates, the ASA, much like Randal from Monsters Inc. after being beaten by Boo, will be largely out of the job of scaring us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO-2_iN4RM0
(I don’t suggest we beat the ASA with a toy baseball bat, but rather we present them with our Advertising Certification certificates, and the backing of the GRCCT should they ever wish to challenge us further).
Here’s my 7 step plan to use any ASA complaints you get to promote your business:
1. Register all your social media (Facebook, Twitter, G+ and any other accounts you have) on Klout.com so that you can track your score as it grows (a Klout score is a number between 1-100 that represents your online influence). You may also like to register your website with Google Analytics, if you haven’t already, so that you can track who is watching your site and how that changes (you’ll find out why in step 6).
2. When you get a complaint from the ASA, tell them thanks very much, but you don’t intend to take any advertising advice from a Ltd Co that has no legal powers, and who has a conflict of interest when it comes complementary therapies, and send them an invoice for your time in dealing with any correspondence from them. You may wish to start with the template letter drafted by F4H.
3. Post a summary of your correspondence with them on your website. And better still, record a video or interview of you and or your clients presenting the situation as you / they see it (this bit I’ve not done yet, but others have to great effect, so I posted these on my website).
4. Tell all your existing clients that when it comes to Complementary Therapies, the ASA is neither “legal, decent, honest nor truthful”, with examples from your experience, give them the link to your site to find out more, and ask them to write, or sign a letter you’ve drafted, to the local paper. Post this also on your website.
5. Post a link to your website page (created in steps 3 & 4) on your Facebook and Twitter and any other Social Media pages you may have, as well as in any relevant Facebook groups etc.
6. Sit back and watch your clout score grow, as the so called ‘skeptics’ feed on your ‘audacity’ like piranhas in a feeding frenzy (they are particularly virulent on twitter, so be sure to post a link to your site there). Don’t worry about the comments of any trolls, just (silently perhaps) thank them for sharing and helping to boost your Google rankings and Klout score (don’t actually thank them too soon, as strangely when you do, they stop trolling you – the more they talk about you the more your Klout increases). After a few days, check how your Google Analytics changes. For example, in my case, I suddenly started seeing a lot of 18-25 men looking at my site, which is very unusual, considering my client base is usually women of childbearing age.
7. Get ready for all the new clients who will now come to you, and all the lapsed clients who will come back to you. Thanks to all that extra activity online and in the local paper, initiated by the ASA, and in turn their neighbours and best friends the SAS (non-Sense About Science) trolls, your Google ranking and Klout Score will increase, helping genuine clients find you that much more easily. In my case, my Klout score jumped from 10 to around 42, and I’m getting 2-3 more new clients each week.
They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, that all publicity is good publicity. In my experience, it’s all about what you do with it. If you see it as a wonderful opportunity to educate your clients and the public in general about your chosen profession and what it has to offer, then yes, absolutely, being listed as a ‘non-complier’ by the ASA, can be a good thing.
And now, even better, you can get yourself listed as a positive example of advertising by the GRCCT’s Advertising Certification process, who will then back you if you ever do go to court.
So please, from now on, let no more complementary therapists ever be scared of the big bad ASA wolf any more. He’s all bark and no bite, out of his depth, and way past his time.
To read more about how I did all of this, see here: http://www.hautmanhomeopathy.com/advertising-standards
For more information about how H:MC21 has been taking on the ASA and educating the public about homeopathy, see here: http://www.hmc21.org/#/asa-adjudication/4556112259
For more information about Freedom4Health, including template letters to send to the ASA, see here: http://freedom4health.com/the-law/write-to-asa/
For more information about Advertising Certification, see here: http://www.grcct.org/advertising-certification/