Communicating in highly regulated environments

Recently a new breed of financial services ‘finfluencer’ on social media channels YouTube and Facebook have been discovering how hard it can be to communicate in a highly regulated market. They have been receiving a knock on the door from ASIC as they discover that sometimes it’s not enough to simply state ‘this is not financial advice’…. when it blatantly is.

Financial advice is not the only highly regulated industry in Australia when it comes to communications – most finance, pharmaceuticals, health, alcohol, even gambling are also highly controlled when it comes to what they can say in public.

However, these industries still have to communicate and they still need to cut through to their customers and investors with their message. This can take some bravery.

Who wouldn’t want to have been a fly-on-the-wall when the marketing team at BankWest first suggested to its legal team, that it would be a good idea to convert all its Home Loan terms & conditions into a picture book?

Telling a narrative in a creative and effective way when you also have legal obligations that must be included is not easy, but there are some rules of thumb to make it happen.

  1. Know the rules yourself

You must have some understanding of what you can and can’t say. For example, having some understanding of when you are offering information and when you are giving financial advice is essential.

  1. Work well with lawyers

This is an area of communications where you get to know your legal team well. If you build a relationship of mutual respect you are far more likely to be able to find compromise.

  1. Know how to push the lawyers

A lawyer’s job in this context is to manage risk, often by removing it altogether by simply saying no. There is no cut-through in communications without some edge, so you need to have enough trust with decision makers that you can push

  1. Finding space to create a narrative

Without a story your communication can become a legal document and that won’t cut through to anyone. If the regulations are so tight that nothing can be said, you’re better off putting your efforts elsewhere.

If you have a working knowledge of the rules, the right relationships and you’re happy to push the boundaries a little, it is still possible create effective communications in highly regulated environments.

What are your tips?

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