As the Word of Mouth Marketing Association kicks off its conference today in Orlando, Fla., one hot topic is sure to be the issue of disclosure: Should the ordinary Joes enlisted to spread buzz about products and services tell others that they’re part of a marketing program?

The answer is a resounding yes, according to new research, from Northeastern University assistant professor Walter Carl, that culled data from more than 800 word-of-mouth agents and the people to whom they talked up brands.

Rather than being put off by the notion of a friend or relative was engaging them with a commercial message, many participants didn’t seem to care. More than three-quarters of respondents called the affiliation a “non-issue.” And, Mr. Carl found, people who knew of an agent’s commercial affiliation were more likely to register positive feelings toward both the agent and the company he or she was working for.

Moreover, he concluded, the rate at which messages were passed along was 70% higher when that relationship was disclosed. Mr. Carl chalked that up to a feeling of being in the know when engaged by an organized campaign.

“There’s a sense if there’s an organized word-of-mouth marketing program there must be something interesting about it,” he said. “There’s a sense that a company wouldn’t do this unless there was something interesting or new about the product.”

Get the full story at AdAge.com