There are a number of laws and regulations that dictate how organizations are allowed to market their products and services. These regulations include what organizations can say about their products and services as well as their competitors and their products. They also regulate how often organizations can market by e-mail, their use of the internet, and what information can be collected as well as how it's used. This can become a virtual landmine for marketers and they must partner with their legal and compliance teams in order to navigate.
In order to achieve the marketing and regulation alignment necessary, companies must have the ability to develop a close partnership with marketers and legal colleagues within an organization. Although the regulations are very detailed, interpretations may differ from company to company or even person to person, therefore it's important to ensure clear communications between legal, regulatory, marketing and sales partners.
I reached out to Stephen Herzog, Corporate Attorney and Member of the Cincinnati Bar Association, for his recommendations on how to best align and partner with legal and compliance teams.
- First and foremost, the Legal Department must adopt a mentality of assisting people within the organization as deal-makers, not deal- breakers. The Legal Department should not just be able to identify problems, but find and propose solutions to those problems.
- Have areas of responsibility designated within the Legal Department, and publish a listing within the organization, so people know a person to contact about a legal issue. They should not just send a request to "the Legal Department".
- For repetitive legal matters, have a form available on-line within the organization for people to fill-out and send to the designated person in Legal to review. This form generally solicits the type of information needed for the lawyer to be able to ask the right questions if need be, and speeds up legal review (example -- a business justification document filled out for contract review).
- Do not try to "sell" the Legal Department on your point of view. Just provide the unvarnished facts and let Legal decide what they mean. In addition, provide all information and documents to Legal on a matter, not just those that you believe support your view. Sometimes the most innocuous looking document can be the most important one in a legal matter.
- Reveal both the good and bad facts to Legal about a matter. Bad facts can be dealt with. Bad facts that are not disclosed--but surface later-- usually cannot.
- Legal problems are easier (and usually cheaper) to avoid than they are to correct. Adhere to published legal policies in the organization. Usually, any such policy resulted from a significant learning experience, and is designed to avoid the same or similar legal problems.
It takes a great partnership to ensure that what is intended with programs is carried through into your marketing communications. Ensure you have a good plan in place with the right check points and guarantee that this plan has been developed jointly with Legal.
What best practices have you implemented to align with your legal and compliance teams?