4 Tips to Take Your Relationship with Legal from Tense to Terrific
I spoke at the Georgia Marketing Summit earlier this year and one common corporate conundrum came up:how do you get legal approval for big ideas?
Whether you work at an agency or brand, so many marketers can relate to the challenge of working with legal. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen legal kill the cool factor of campaign concepts and take the “punch” out of punchy creative.
I’ve worked for a Fortune 10 company for the past few years. I’ve also worked with a lot of lawyers! Along the way, my team has launched viral videos, set world records and produced livestreams with Superstars. We’ve done work that I’m incredibly proud of, and legal has been a valuable partner at every step of the way. Here are my top tips for working with legal in a way that creates more harmony, and less headaches.
1. Be a student.
There’s a 99.99% chance that, if you have corporate legal counsel, you’re not a lawyer. That said, you may not be an expert on the legal implications of your work or the legal intricacies that govern your industry. Look at your work with legal as a learning opportunity and take advantage of their expertise to increase your own. If you get feedback or pushback that you don’t understand, ask questions. If they are uncomfortable with a certain approach or turn of phrase, work with them to reframe your approach or rephrase your copy to make it work. The better you can understand their perspective, the better you can anticipate their asks and proactively address their concerns. When in doubt, step away from your inbox. Pick up the phone or meet with legal in person to talk through your project and work with them to find the path forward.
2. Be a teacher.
There’s also a good chance that your lawyer is an expert in the law — and not in social media. Take the time to help them learn about social media marketing, the limitations of each platform and the trends in the space. Provide examples of what your key competitors are doing. Share articles that illuminate hot topics and highlight cool campaigns. Educate and inspire them to help you make marketing magic.
3. Be a rule-maker.
Believe it or not, legal’s job is not to kill your big ideas or crush your soul. Part of their job is to mitigate risk for your company. Less risk for your company means less risk for you, so think of this as a win-win. Work with legal to create guidelines and guardrails that you can operate within. This is especially true for real-time content, where the risk is inherently higher. The more you can establish — and abide by — the agreed upon guidelines, the happier your legal will be. Happy lawyer, happy life. (That’s how the saying goes… right?)
4. Be a partner.
Treat your legal counsel like a partner in the process. Be as clear as you can in your communications with legal and give them the information and the context they need to make informed decisions. Learn the timelines that they’re working on and give them plenty of time for review and feedback. If you’re about to do anything crazy (like launch a world-record-breaking 24-hour livestream) bring your legal counsel in as soon possible. When you can, invite legal to join the fun! Having legal on-site during high-stakes activations gives you the benefit of real-time legal feedback and gives your legal counsel (and your boss) the benefit of peace of mind.
The bottom line: think of your legal counsel as an ally — not an enemy! Work with legal and find win-win approaches to make marketing magic.
Do you have a story about working with legal, or an approach that’s been helpful for you? I’d love to hear it.