Most of us know the game “Telephone” where one person whispers a statement to their neighbor, and that person turns to their neighbor and repeats the statement as they heard it. The further down the line, the more the statement is misinterpreted and altered. In today’s fast-paced digital environment, unchecked or even false information can be spread in an instant, making it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Like many established industries, we’ve dealt with misinformed statements and flat-out fiction throughout the history of the direct selling channel. Recently, news reports proliferated inaccurate direct selling earnings information, erroneously inferring that specific earnings data were published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In fact, the FTC never published a report of this nature and there are no government reports of any sort which address the issue of how much money direct sellers across the business channel earn. Adding to the misinformation, some reporters have referenced an FTC website link to a public comment from an outspoken and opinionated critic of direct selling.
FACTS AND FINDINGS
DSA proactively educates reporters, writes editorials and opinion letters, and even requests retractions or apologies. We’ve also provided direct selling facts and pointed news outlets to thirdparty research and academics, including:
- According to DSA’s 2018 National Salesforce Study, 80 percent of respondents rate their experience in direct selling as good, very good, or excellent.
- DSA’s 2018 National Salesforce Study shows that 90 percent of people involved in direct selling work part-time (fewer than 30 hours per week) with more than 50 percent working fewer than 10 hours per week.
- Research conducted by DSEF Fellow, Dr. Anne Coughlan, Polk Brothers Chair in Retailing, Professor of Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University discusses her independent research on the individual motivations of direct sellers who become involved in the direct selling industry.
TURNING A NEGATIVE INTO A POSITIVE
When encountering inaccurate information, we can change the conversation to a positive one by emphasizing the proactive steps we are taking to support and protect U.S. consumers. In many cases, we highlight the DSA Code of Ethics requiring that accurate and truthful earnings representations be shared with all prospective sales people. In addition, we point to the steps we are taking to establish a self-regulatory program. The Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC) will be administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and monitor the entire direct selling marketplace, not just DSA members. This will include websites and social media of direct selling companies and their independent sales forces in the areas of income representations and product claims.
A NEW DSA RESOURCE
Imagine if the more than 18 million people in direct selling and DSA member companies had a go-to source for the latest facts and information to address inaccuracies and, in turn, accurately promote the benefits of direct selling. I’m pleased to tell you that we recently launched, “DSA Fact Check,” a campaign that includes timely questions and answers about our industry, along with
important facts and third-party resources.
When it comes to setting the record straight, we as an industry can be a powerful voice for truth.