Making Progress During Uncertainty

NOTE: This blog includes discussions and explorations of legal issues. The content is intended for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be legal advice. You should always consult with a licensed attorney about actions that could impair your legal rights.

“In this day and age, ‘uncertainty’ is a constant.” You have probably heard that statement before — maybe even with some specificity added on for good measure (e.g., “we all know what I am talking about”), but that is no better than “cold-reading the room.” It is a statement that lacks substance, and it is an example of when generalizing wisdom is less useful for specific situations. For many people, it might as well had not even been said. My role as an attorney is to apply the law (i.e., that generalized wisdom), so that you can use that understanding to make informed decisions.

All of that being said, we do appear to be in a moment of high uncertainty: the United States House of Representatives opened a formal impeachment inquiry into the President, there are concerns about a trade war with Europe, a possible trade deal with China, and Formula 1 is considering “reverse‑grid qualifying races.” No one knows exactly how all that will end, and most people do not even possess the ability to directly affect what happens in those situations. But many people do have the ability to prepare for the opportunity that such uncertainty inevitably supplies. Focus on what you do know, and reach out to those that may be able to help you spot other ways to operate with more certainty.

All endeavors — regardless of profit motives (or the lack thereof) — will need to grow in some form or fashion in order to succeed. Constant developments in media and forms of communication present exciting new (and in many cases, less cost-prohibitive) solutions for expanding an entity’s audience or customer base, but these outreach efforts are not without risk.

Take advertising and product endorsements as an example. In part because of the debacle that was Fyre Festival, social media “influencers” have come under greater scrutiny for product endorsements. Failure to disclose sponsorships or payments for endorsements can run afoul of the law, leading to letters from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reminding “influencers and brands to clearly disclose [any] relationship” between the two, in some cases, and lawsuits in others. While there are certainly more egregious examples of what may be considered impropriety, for example, paying $250,000 for a single post on Instagram, updated FTC guidance related to product endorsements on social media, suggests that such an arrangement is not the “floor” for what the FTC expects to be disclosed for the benefit of consumers.

The fact that efforts to expand an audience or customer base can end up costing more than just the cost of a failed advertising campaign, should not be viewed as an insurmountable barrier to growing businesses. Proper disclosures are just an important piece of operating and expanding a business. It is an area of the law where speaking with a business attorney probably won’t help you to know the outcome of impeachment, whether a trade war between the United States and the European Union occurs, whether a trade deal with China is signed, or what Formula 1 will do with weekend race schedules, but it may help to provide you with greater certainty about the operation of your endeavor. Speaking with a business attorney now can help prepare you for when opportunity does strike.