get content through compliance

How to get content through Compliance

In Content production by Rob JohnsonLeave a Comment

Sometimes it seems ‘Compliance’ is another word for Purgatory. “I’ve got to get this newsletter out, but it’s been sitting in Compliance for a week,” you hear marketers grumble. If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, you may see compliance as ‘the upside down’. That’s a parallel dimension which is dark, creepy, and toxic. You want to get content through Compliance before it dies. But Compliance doesn’t seem to care.

Compliance does care. To a point. But like the rest of us, your compliance officer also cares about his or her job. And part of that job involves being a roadblock. So no-one gets a rush of blood to the head and publishes something you’ll all regret.

We all have demands on us to produce more content, more often. So how can you get past the Compliance roadblock? Well, there is a three step procedure. Start with involving them in your planning process. Brief your content team on compliance trigger words. And build a schedule from the start that allows for their time.

Invite compliance to the party

Every content project should begin with an editorial meeting. This is where you get the whole team together to agree on what you’ll be producing over the following months. Although you may not have thought of it before, it’s crucial to have your compliance officer at that meeting.

This is the point where they can flag a potential problem with a story idea. They also get to see the strategic approach you are taking to your job within the organisation. If they understand where you’re coming from, they may be able to suggest solutions to problems you haven’t even seen yet.

Forget your style guide—think trigger words

Every organisation that produces content has a style guide. It can be formal, developed with a communications agency, or informal. Every organisation I’ve worked with makes a big deal about developing and sustaining its own ‘voice’. And they assess everything they publish against whether it’s in their ‘voice’. And frankly, it’s unnecessary.

What is more important, and what Compliance can help with, is a list of compliance trigger words. These are words that will have a particular legal meaning in the context of your industry. They are the words your compliance people always cross out in your copy.

The classic example of a trigger word in financial services, for example, is ‘advise’. The word has a very specific legal definition in the finance world. Yet when a banker talks about their dealings with a client, they will often say, “I advised Fred to do this, as it would have better tax implications for him”. Sounds like great service to most of us. Sounds like a nightmare to Compliance.

Circulate a list of Compliance trigger words to your team and any suppliers. This will mean they will avoid using those ideas and words in the first place. Which will save everyone time at the final step.

Plan for it to take a while to get content through Compliance

Everything moves slowly through Compliance. Generally because Compliance is a small team, being asked to do more all the time. They are trying to be thorough. And while you know all your content is fine, the fact is, they don’t. And they need to check it.

If you accept that, you can allow for it at the very start of the process.

A handy tool to use to help you with this is our free schedule generator. There’s a call-to-action at the end of this article where you can download one. It’s an excel spreadsheet with the time it takes each task to complete already mapped out.

You’ll find this tool useful because any content project you’re doing will have a number of deadlines. Usually, when we do one, it has between 12 and 15 deadlines. And each one of those deadlines have to be met for the project to move on to the next stage.

Most of us start content projects with an end date in mind. Whether it’s linked to a campaign or a product launch or something else, the final deadline is the easiest one to know.

If you enter the final deadline into the schedule generator, it will tell you when you should start. You’ll know right from the beginning whether you’re on time or late, and how much time you need to make up.

And you can adjust it to make sure that Compliance has plenty of time to meet their deadline.


If you want to make sure Compliance will let your content through, you have to plan ahead. Invite at least one Compliance person to your editorial planning session. Make sure you set a schedule that allows for plenty of time at the end of the process. And develop that list of trigger words with them, so they know you’re thinking of how to make their lives easier too.

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