Here’s an all-too-common scenario almost every social media marketer will experience at some point and will need to learn to handle to grow their career:
A social manager or team develops the plan for an innovative campaign. They race full steam toward the finish line, investing their time and efforts into the many creative, technical, and logistical issues involved in preparing a social program and getting it online.
At the last minute (or sometimes even after launch) suddenly someone remembers; “Oh, yeah. All campaigns need legal approval.”
The program is hastily sent to legal who then has to scramble to review messaging and make a decision.
Cue the Attorneys
This is a phrase that makes almost any experienced marketer cringe at least a little little in anticipation of pedantic edits, bureaucratic delays or outright rejection.
Company lawyers may not know much about social. Moreover, they usually aren’t given much background about why the program is important or how the company will benefit.
All they can see is exposure to new and uncertain risk, and a marketing department that doesn’t seem to take the risk seriously or to proactively manage the issues. A company lawyer’s job to protect the company from risk, including those that dynamic shoot-from-the-hip social managers haven’t considered.
All that translates to a quick “no” from the lawyers.
Too often the legal team is seen as an obstacle rather than an asset.
Protecting your company while getting a social program launched requires, first and foremost, that you build a strong collaborative partnership with your legal team. Companies in regulated environments have learned how to partner with legal not just to avoid a “no” but to make a better program with fewer mistakes.
Some industries are governed by strict rules about interactions with customers, and moving into social media requires a very careful look at how these rules apply. Its fast-moving nature and the fact that fans and followers have uncontrolled access to interacting with your brand opens up huge new avenues for liability.
The most effective social media marketing managers partner with legal from the start.
Often, the first answer from legal will be, “No, I don’t think we can do that.” But if marketing brings legal in early, explains its business goals and strategies, and then works hand in hand with colleagues to understand the issues, the relationship very quickly becomes collaborative. They’re able to work through what has to be done to manage and mitigate the risk.
Forging Mutually Beneficial Relationships
Taking the time to educate your legal team about the goals and benefits of your social efforts creates a cooperative dynamic that allows them to see that potential risk exists alongside potential gain. Lawyers are there to protect the company, the brand, and, yes, you marketing managers, too, by managing, mitigating, or eliminating legal liability.
Company lawyers know that the last is almost impossible, so they’ll work with you to manage and mitigate– if you’ll work with them. In this context, good lawyers don’t say no. They say, “OK, we have this managed. Now, it’s a business decision.”
Educating the legal team often requires more than explaining the specific goals and strategies of your program. You also need to:
- Take the time to teach the legal team what you know about social and the potential benefits for the business. Walk them step by step through each platform, showing them how and why customers are using these tools.
- Be clear on the business goals and strategies.
- Show the legal team what your competitors are up to.
- Filling any knowledge gaps makes it easier for them to do their job and builds trust and a foundation for a solid partnership.
An Ounce of Prep is Worth a Pound of Tweets
That is a great rule of thumb for all brands as they move into social or launch new campaigns. You never know when a social post will be taken out of context and spread all over the web or a consumer will engage on a platform in a way you’d never expect. You need to prepare for as many curveballs as possible and have plans in place to deal with them.
After all, you don’t want to be the one responsible for an infamous social media failure
Video from AskMen
This is a long process–and in an environment like social that’s constantly changing, it can seem like an eternity. But companies that do their due diligence ahead of time, especially in highly regulated industries, will be ready to weather almost any kind of social storm. That kind of preparation doesn’t eliminate risk entirely, but it creates a structure that makes spontaneous interaction between customers and brands possible.
If you hope to maintain a successful career in social media staffing, it’s absolutely essential that you get experience collaborating with your legal team and managing the inherent risk of engaging on social. Learn how to work around these challenges and show future employers your capable of executing a long-term social strategy while overcoming liability challenges.
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