Regulatory Compliance for Digital Marketers, Part 2: 11 Steps to Manage Risks



Marketing is as much art as it is science. Sure, it helps to gather data and learn what approaches work with which customers—but there’s also an advantage to trusting your intuition and testing out some crazy ideas to see how well they work.

But you know it’s not just a free-for-all out there. You’ve got to balance your exciting ideas with the reality of a complex patchwork of legal and regulatory obligations. How can you keep those requirements from holding you back in creating effective and engaging marketing? Last week we walked through the big questions that you need to answer to ensure you’re meeting your compliance obligations. This week, we’re summarizing that information in an easy-to-use reference checklist.

Here are 11 steps to get your compliance obligations under control—so you can unleash your marketing creativity.


1. Learn about the risks: talk with your legal or compliance department. Ask for a layperson’s explanation of what regulations you’re subject to, why they matter, and what they mean for your marketing approaches. Figure out who makes compliance decisions within your organization, and set up a readily accessible method of communication so you know where to go later.

2. Get clear guidelines on how and where you should use specific language. What disclaimers do you need? Where should they be? What required information or contact buttons should you have? What language must you avoid?

3. Establish protocols for reviewing materials and getting answers to your questions. Set up functional approval workflows and disseminate that information to your whole team. While you’re at it, set up a recurring schedule to check in with your contact for regulatory updates or changes.


4. Design whatever you think will work. This is the fun part! Consult the data you’ve already gathered about your previous campaigns, research new trends, and experiment a bit. Online technology is improving at a breakneck pace; see what you can do with it.

5. Make sure you can archive whatever you create. If you’re required to archive your online communications with the public, make sure you’re using an archiving system that can handle whatever you throw at it.


6. Think like a customer. Look over your design and really put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Does it sound like you’re making a promise? If so, is it a promise that you’re fully prepared to keep? Is your message clear and unambiguous? Does it leave room for interpretation? Will those who aren’t tech-savvy get it? Is your content accessible and honest?

7. Verify that any new website pages have all required disclaimers. Consider implementing an automatic check for disclaimer language too.

8. Confirm the presence of any required buttons, options, or information. For example, you may need to provide a “do not sell my information” button to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). If so, make sure that it’s there.

9. Complete your approval workflows. Now is the time to send your marketing materials to the people you identified in Step 3. Maintain a digital audit trail to demonstrate both that you sent your materials to the right people for review and that you made any necessary changes identified during that review. A clear audit trail lets you point to the reasonable steps you took to protect the public should you ever face a regulatory inquiry.


10. Post your content. This is the moment of truth: get your new campaign or webpage online and see how it performs.

11. Verify that your archives are collecting your new marketing materials. “Set it and forget it” can be a huge mistake—unless you’ve got a human QA team monitoring your online archives. Whether it’s you, your compliance team, or a trusted vendor, make sure that someone is checking for errors so you can correct them.

There you have it: 11 straightforward tips to get your marketing materials in compliance.

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