A concern I hear over and over again at social media conferences is that content is getting held up in legal and compliance. Many social media pros are fine until they realize legal and compliance has the final say over their content. Then it is game-on.
I am incredibly lucky because one of my first jobs in social media was heavily compliant. The lawyer had to take a look at every single piece of creative and copy before it could go live on our social media channels. Fortunately, we became fast friends and he was very responsive and amicable to listening to my argument for why we needed to publish a certain piece of content. Basically, I was spoiled.
Then I entered the healthcare industry which not only required legal approval, but also needed to be compliant. OMG. Fortunately, the lawyer and compliance officer agreed that anything that was not part of a specific Facebook ad campaign did not need to be approved. Whew.
All was well until the lawyer of a large international nonprofit told me off three days into my new position on a thread with every executive in the organization on the email. He was angry I had made changes an executive requested to a tweet when he felt he should be the last in command to give approval. I was mortified. I spent the entire night fantasizing about a new career doing social media for small businesses that didn’t have big, scary corporate lawyers to call me out at midnight on an email chain. However, the big, scary corporate lawyer and I actually ended up making up and forming a very productive working relationship.
Which was good, because I soon transitioned to the even bigger and scarier world of insurance.
Suffice it to say, I became very grateful that I learned very early on in my career that the better my working relationship with the corporate lawyer and compliance, the more effective social media would be.
Here are some tips I have learned over the past decade that might help you get some more of your content through your legal/compliance teams:
Form A Working Relationship
Introduce yourself to your compliance and legal team. This does not mean sending an intro email and then a ton of work to approve. This means setting up an in-person meeting where you can discuss with them the ways that they like to work and how they have worked with previous teams. Ask them for everything that worked and everything that didn’t. If you are the first to work with them, provide examples of how you could work together and ask them for their thoughts. Then make sure to stay in touch. Schedule lunches, weekly check-in’s…whatever it takes to maintain a relationship where you both can freely exchange thoughts.
Provide Competitor Examples
This is one of the most invaluable lessons I have used throughout my entire career. With social media being a constantly questioned method of marketing, you need a sharp tool like competitive examples in your back pocket. If compliance and legal refuse to let you do something on social media that you have seen competitors do, show them a screenshot of the competitor’s content.
Understand Their Viewpoint
Sometimes it may seem that legal and compliance exist just so that you cannot publish your intelligent content. In reality, their prime job is to protect you and the company. So before you become defensive because they won’t approve your clever GIF, take a moment to understand why that GIF might cause the company issues down the road. Don’t be afraid to get a clear understanding of why they are rejecting content. Believe me, it will be super helpful down the road as you think about new content for the brand. I’ve had some compliance/legal teams that I have been so on par with by the end of the year that they have very few changes at all to the content I’m submitting. By then I know what they absolutely will not pass through, and they know why we need to use certain hashtags and copy on social media.
Be The Social Media Teacher
A lot of the disagreements I have had with compliance/legal teams have stemmed from them not understanding how the content is going to be consumed and what is defined as an ad on social media, and what isn’t. I was getting absolutely nothing approved during my first few weeks in the life insurance industry so an executive suggested that I sit down with the compliance/legal teams and walk them through my social media strategy. I told the executive that I just could not imagine that the teams cared what the strategy was for social media. I was wrong. The teams were so enthralled in the strategy and even thanked me afterwards for taking the time to answer their Social Media 101 questions. They said that they now understood why hashtags needed to be used and why we were talking about things outside of the insurance industry on social media. Suddenly, (some of) my content was approved! Take the time to teach people about social media and walk them step-by-step through your ideas. It’s incredible how much this simple gesture can help resolve content issues.
Kill Your Ego
I know, I know, but it needs to be said. Having been in social media for 10 years, I know how attached a social media pro can get to their content. It is like compliance/legal are putting a knife straight through your heart when they tell you to basically start over on a piece of content. It isn’t you >> It isn’t them >> It’s the LAW. You can’t take compliance/legal reviews personally at all. Your job is to disrupt a million conversations and grab someone’s attention, while their job is to make sure the company doesn’t grab attention for the wrong reasons and end up in a lawsuit.
Getting content through legal and compliance teams, especially in large corporations, can be tough. In fact, it has even killed social media altogether for some brands not willing to take the risk. That is the battle we face as disruptors in regulated industries. I like to look at it as being a more thrilling job because we have the challenge of creating stellar content that can also make its way past a conservative team of people. I promise you that when you take the time to explain social media and your strategy behind using it for the brand, you will have a better relationship with your legal and compliance teams. If you come in all hot to trot and complain that they never approve your content, you are completely murdering your chances at having a positive working relationship that it takes to get content approved.
Set-up a meeting with your legal and compliance teams this week and listen to what they have to say. You might be quite surprised at how willing they are to work with you when you take the time to listen to them.
– Marji Dupuis