By Anne Holland, President
Do you work for a company where you have to send new copy past legal for approval?
Keene Benson over at GE Healthcare, whose email campaigns we detail in this week's Case Study (see below), revealed the tactics he used to turn the legal department from an adversarial barrier into friends of marketing.
Tactic #1. Avoid grief-making offers and triple check claims
Benson keeps a list of offers that make lawyers fret by his side so he can avoid them. "I'm not going to fight that same battle again." He's found if he consistently sticks to safer ground, the legal department relaxes and begins to trust him. "They basically rubber-stamp them now that they're comfortable I'm going to stay in the framework."
He also never submit copy containing claims about a product that he hasn't researched and substantiated just in case there are questions.
Note: you can't always rely on product managers to do this. They can get carried away with enthusiasm and forget about the letter of the law. "When I talk to the marketing product managers and they make a claim about a product, I say 'How can we prove it?' I ask the questions I know legal will want to ask."
If the claim is a bit tenuous or hard-to-prove, Keene focuses his copy on another benefit or offer instead, if possible. Why invite trouble?
Tactic #2. Never argue with legal
"Never argue with legal -- they live to argue," advises Keene. Lawyers will get drawn into an argument for the sake of arguing alone, thrilled to working out why they are right and you are wrong.
You need to stop their brains from racing down that rabbit hole when they talk to you. Instead of discussing right and wrong, discuss options and/or ask them for a percentage of worry.
(A percentage of worry is what's the reality-based likelihood this will be a problem? Often lawyers will spot potential problems but not define how worrisome the problem is. They want to shield you from *everything*.)
Tactic #3. Don't rely on email alone -- talk to legal in person
"Lawyers love to write. They're trained to be argumentative when they write, that's their job. They love to send emails back and forth. I avoid getting into long email discussions," says Keene.
"If I get an email indicating there's an issue, I walk up and sit down in their offices and talk it out. It's so funny -- lawyers can get so aggressive by email but if I pick up the phone and say 'Hey, how's it going?' they can be easy as pie to get along with."
One final tip: Although Keene is proud to get along fairly well with GE Healthcare's legal department, he notes, "I don't let them give me marketing advice."
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