Navigating The Social Media Terrain On Behalf of Highly Regulated Brands

Finding the sweet spot for your social channels is challenging enough for brands that don’t have to deal with a lot of regulation. It's an even bigger challenge for industries that are highly regulated, such as the financial and healthcare sectors.

Tim Kane

Tim Kane, executive VP, digital branding at Makovsky, which specializes in healthcare and financial PR, shared a few tips on how communicators practicing in these sectors can navigate the regulatory landscape vis-à-vis social platforms.

> Your guiding principle is, ‘Don’t be Stupid’:  Kane said that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and  the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)  have explicit directions for PR folks to follow regarding what brands can (and cannot) communicate via social channels. “If you can’t say something in the normal course of communications, you can’t do it on social media,” he said. “Your hands are not tied. There are specific processes that you need to follow.”

> Explain the regulatory infrastructure: When creating social media campaigns for highly regulated companies “the first step is to say, ‘Here’s the process,’” Kane said. In order to make sure your brand doesn’t run afoul of any rules it also helps to develop relationships and/or partnerships with compliance officers who are willing to work together, he said. “We know who can say what and when, and clients look to us for that understanding,” Kane added.

> Educate clients on the opportunity: In addition to educating highly regulated companies about what they can and cannot do via social channels, PR executives need to explain all the opportunity that social channels afford in terms of spreading the message and expanding the audience. Brands that are highly regulated “tend to be comfortable with traditional PR channels,” Kane said. “But our job is to help them see the value of social media [and] that it’s become a big part of marketers’ arsenal.”

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1