Content vs. Legal: Brand Publishing’s Big Battle [Contently Comic]


Welcome to the second edition in our weekly Contently comic series drawn by the crazy-talented Martin Kozlowski. As with last week and all future weeks, each comic is accompanied with a #hottake by yours truly.

So let’s talk about legal approvals, the thorn in the side of many content marketers. For editors and marketers trying to get a content operation off the ground within the bureaucratic confines of a big brand, getting stories through compliance in a timely fashion can feel like staring down Beast Mode.

Simply put, there’s no way brands can compete with the growing number of awesome publishers and media channels on the web if they can’t get timely, relevant content out the door. When it takes 45 days and hundreds of man hours to create and approve a freaking tweet, you’re in trouble. What happens when you try to get something out the door that’s more than 140 characters? Are we talking about a three-month process all of a sudden?

It’s easy to villainize the lawyers here because BOO LAWYERS BOOOOO. But if we’re being honest, lawyers aren’t the real problem. Legal approvals are primarily an issue in organizations that haven’t embraced a “culture of content.” Since these brands haven’t made storytelling a company-wide priority, there’s no unified vision that rallies everyone around telling stories that drive larger business goals. Without a culture like that, minimizing risk becomes your number one priority. That’s a recipe for failure.

There are other ways to overcome the battles between content and legal. Contently’s John Hazard advocates creating a clear set of rules that get lawyers out of the editorial process. Huge’s John McCrory has his own unique four-step framework for working with lawyers. And Tomas Kellner of GE Reports managed to cut down his legal approval time to a few hours after becoming good buds with GE’s lawyers.

“In the beginning, it was a difficult practice for me to learn,” Kellner told me. “I didn’t know who these people were and how to get the copy through efficiently. It often got stuck. It’s like building a house. You have to put in the plumbing. Once you know who these people are, you don’t have to go through the various gatekeepers. You can go directly to them and check on your story, how it’s moving.”

And ideally, you’ll be able to do all of that without strapping on a helmet.

Image by Martin Kozlowski

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