I Fought the Law(yers) and The Law(yers) Won

This post was written by John White on Thu, 01 Sep 2011 20:02:58 +0000
Posted Under: blog,managing writing project,marketing manager,publishing content,review loop

Corporate blogging is not all it’s cracked up to be. Legal review of your marketing content takes some of the fun out of it. But for a good reason.

I fought the law and the law won

I don’t care what Google’s stock price is. They build an enterprise and reputation their way, and we build it our way. We’re not letting employees shoot from the hip in a blog post.

Nobody has said that to me, but it’s how I imagine a client in that position would think.

And, truth to tell, I haven’t fought the lawyers. I would stand nothing to gain and lots to lose.

As a marketing manager, you can crank out – or have a marketing communications writer crank out – blog posts that border on the fanciful. Face it: you’re in the business of imagination, and to keep the interest of your company’s followers, you may be tempted to “push it” every now and again. That’s because:

  1. People want to read controversy – or at least opinions – in a blog. They look to a blog for a peek behind the curtains at what’s going on in your organization. That’s usually the antithesis of legal review.
  2. The opinions they want to read do not include how great your products are. They want to know how you regard the market and especially your competitors. Legal review is not set up for that.
  3. Legal review slows down the blogging process and can deprive timely posts of their edge. Mostly, though, that’s a good thing.

So you can gripe and moan that all your best stuff ends up on the cutting room floor because it was censored. But keep in mind that the responsibility of legal reviewers in the content creation process is to ensure that you avoid publishing things you couldn’t prove if you had to. These people are trained to assume that you will have to prove it someday, and they’ve been correct often enough that their role is a valuable one.

Don’t fight them. And if you do fight them, let them win. Someday you can be David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer of Google, and raise as many hackles as he did last month in a blog post about Microsoft and Apple.

But until then, just tell the truth “and make it rhyme.”

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Mike Willis

Reader Comments

I agree with this advice.

Despite what some social media / blogging consultants may say about ‘creating’ controversy and ‘generating’ traffic, an incorporated business has legal obligations to multiple stakeholders. Exposing the company to libel actions is not one of them…

Another point is that libel laws do differ across jurisdictions (US and UK are examples I can think of). What may be protected ‘free speech’ in one country might open up a whole can of legal worms in another…

‘Rogue trader’ has been in the news recently. I wonder when the first high profile ‘rogue blogger’ will make the headlines because of libel damages, or worse? Not that I want to see this but it’s probably only a matter of time.

#1 
Written By Mark McClure on September 18th, 2011 @ 5:50

Probably won’t be long, Mark. rogueblogger.com is already taken…

#2 
Written By John White on September 19th, 2011 @ 13:00