Enhancing Reputation Through Compliance

DSA

“Are they doing this because of direct selling’s reputation?”

That is one of the most common questions asked when government officials take action against direct selling companies. And when media and channel critics report on such instances, the channel’s reputation can further suffer.

After all, such stories are generally thought to be good clickbait.

The industry’s continued effort—as well as individual companies’ work—is ongoing. There are times when the channel’s ever-growing corporate compliance departments do not catch issues before regulatory or self-regulatory entities bring them to their attention.

When companies are faced with shaping a response, DSA is often asked, “just tell me what we can say!” Even dissecting recent Earnings Claims Guidance by the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidance, straightforward answers can be hard to come by.

As we all know, reputations aren’t built overnight: reputations are built on more than mere words: actions are needed to substantiate these words, as one serves to support the other.

While we often talk about “positive messaging,” words are only as good as the channel’s ability to live up to a high standard of marketplace ethics.

One of DSA’s key functions is providing educational forums through which executives may connect to learn about the industry’s best practices that can be put into action within their companies. Also, offering individual companies and the industry the opportunity to gain a standard base of knowledge for good compliance practices is critical, as well.

A program providing both is key, and DSA’s first Direct Selling Compliance Professional Certification Program (DSCP-CP) is the answer.

Launched in January 2021, this twelve-hour intensive course sponsored by industry supplier partners BakerHostetler and Kelley Drye, seeks to achieve these goals.

The 200 participants listened and engaged during the course of the four-day program and had to pass a test at the end to achieve certification.

Participants were made up of seasoned executives who wanted to sharpen their understanding to individuals from other backgrounds who wanted a substantive education on these issues.

Although not a replacement for content offered during DSA educational events, the certification demonstrates the industry’s commitment to these principles that can be communicated to regulatory and self-regulatory entities. It cannot prevent actions and is only granted on an individual basis.

Although knowledge gained from the program won’t provide a definitive answer for every issue, the knowledge you gain should help guide all executives toward a solution.

The certification is scheduled to be offered later in 2021 and twice annually thereafter. We hope the program becomes ubiquitous across the industry. As we gain a critical mass of executives participating in the program, this will start translating what we achieve with this certification to the marketplace and decrease fodder for scrutiny.

We can only improve the war on reputation if we win the battle on marketplace ethics.

Brian Bennett is the Vice President, Government Relations & Policy for the U.S. Direct Selling Association.