6 ways to ensure you're creating compliant finance content

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A marketer's cheat sheet
By Jacqueline Malafiej, contributor. 10 October, 2017
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The need to meet regulatory demands and only provide neutral or general advice make it difficult for financial services marketers to deliver campaign cut-through and business growth at the best of times. But at the end of the day, fulfilling these obligations is non-negotiable for finance brands, which means it’s an environment that marketers need to learn to work effectively within.

At risk of leaving your organisation open to enquiries from regulators, enforceable undertakings, or reputational brand damage as a result of ill-advised, overlooked or rushed campaigns, we look at how to ensure you’re creating finance content that’s compliant, and engaging.

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Legal the enemy? Think again

Ultimately, as the champion of the customer, the responsibility and accountability of delivering content that is compliant, as well as engaging, falls to marketing. And the realisation of this heavy burden is not often accepted, nor understood in its full context by marketers.

Due to a reliance on feedback from the legal and compliance team, which is generally given after the ideation stage, financial services marketers often bemoan the fact that a creative idea can be quashed in a matter of moments, generally because:

  1. It is at risk of attracting regulatory attention, or
  2. It is in breach of regulation, legislation or fair play. In other words, it is illegal.

Legal and Compliance get a bad rap from marketers and agencies who see them as the grim reapers of creative content and the death knell of creativity. But in the financial services industry, regardless of whether your brand is a disruptor, a challenger or an established leader, compliant content is a must.

If an established leader starts to act like a challenger in its marketing and communications, it’s bound to attract attention, good and bad. Be prepared for the scrutiny, because it is coming your way and sometimes you just can’t shake it off and that’s ok – provided you’ve dotted your i’s, crossed your t’s and have a trail.

The battle between creativity and compliant commercialism is a struggle and it will continue to be, which means marketers have no choice but to learn how best to strike a harmony between the two.

Striking the balance between creative and compliant content

As a financial services marketer, there are some simple ways you can ensure your content has the best chance of getting to market, starting with knowing the restrictions you need to work within.

  1. Become accredited - It’s much easier to understand the implications, and also challenge your legal and risk colleagues if you have a background in standards. Most professional industries have professional standards that must be certified annually. An example in financial services in Australia is RG146.
  2. Engage early - Make friends with your legal, risk and compliance colleagues from the very beginning and engage them at the time you write your brief. It’s easier to assess the risks at the conceptual stage and there is often more time for respectful challenges and debate. It also means that if required, they have the time to engage external counsel. This open line of communication should then continue throughout the content creation and review process.
  3. Use moderators in language - This may seem pretty straight-forward but it’s also a surprisingly easy way to a trip a great campaign up. For instance, use terms like “may” or “could", not “will” or “can".
  4. Honesty is always the best policy - Be as upfront as you can. The common use of "lead magnates” or offers can get you in trouble – be wary of whether you fall into a bait and switch situation.
  5. Alignment - Is the campaign a true reflection of your brand and organisation values? It’s easy to assess the reputational risks in terms of your brand. If your content doesn’t align with your values and you’re off-brand, you could attract unnecessary regulatory attention.
  6. Sourcing and permission - Where did you find your information? How did you validate it? Do you have authority to quote, reference and imply?

So, which brands are getting it right? Here we share UK brands who have embraced content marketing and who are making creative and compliant work.

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Jacqueline started her working life in advertising, though has spent most of her career in marketing. Her work with world-renowned blue chip brands has spanned the entire marketing mix, from brand and content strategy, channel development, and CX, to digital and social programs. Jacqueline’s passion lies in the science of combining creativity with commerce, and her expertise is focused on balancing creative integrity whilst ensuring measurable, commercial outcomes. Struck by wanderlust, Jacqueline is a keen traveller, photographer and writer.