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Legal teams exist to protect companies. To close dangerous doors. To build up protective walls. To keep important information in. (Note: If you are on the legal team, please feel free to correct me here, I am no lawyer)
It is true however that the openness and transparency of social media naturally causes a bit of conflict between these two teams. It is a common standoff. It is important to remember that your legal team is trying to protect the company.
Many times your legal department will not understand the new ecosystem of social media, at all. It is like playing rap music for your grandparents. “What is that noise?” They will not understand the openness or why the company NEEDS to throw itself into that lion’s den.
Do you go over their head? Do you hire a professional moderator? Do you try to hypnotize them to help convince them to see the light? All are great options, well maybe not. But all of these options might seem great if you have gone through this frustration filled process.
We decided to ask the experts. We reached out on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to see where others have had success. Learn from their insights below. And add your own two cents in the comments.
1. CC Chapman (@CC_Chapman)
“Small steps that they’ll deem as “safer” so that they learn slowly rather than diving in and freaking out. Doing this with a client now. It is taking FOREVER, but it is the only way to make it work with them.”
2. Jonathan Fields (@jonathanfields)
“You don’t. You ask the legal team what the risks are and how they can be protected against, then you convince the business team that the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.”
3. Deborah Ng (@debng)
4. Scott Hepburn (@scotthepburn)
“Prove to them you’re sincere about wanting to mitigate risk while still achieving other business objectives.”
5. Becca Bernstein (@beccabernstein)
“Creating concrete guidelines. Knowing who has access and a crisis prevention plan for “scary” issues.”
6. Deana Goldasich (@goldasich)
“Create a draft of a social media policy alongside case studies, examples of other organizations, etc. The policy process forces the tough discussions and draws clear boundaries, guidelines, etc. — rather than an “all or nothing” mentality on both sides…”
7. Scott Gulbransen (@sdgully)
“Education is big but I’ve always been in situations where legal is NOT the approver. That means if you get C-level support, they’ll back you on any perceived risk. As I say to our legal team all the time: it’s out of your control…we have to surrender our brand. It’s too late to have that argument…it’s already happened.”
8. Nicole D’Alonzo (@nikisnotes)
“Involve them from the onset. It’s definitely tricky because they may not want to be involved at all, but bringing them in from day one will produce better results than surprising them later.”
9. Pete Bosak (@petebosak)
“Demonstrate that you clearly understand risk, that you’re with them on mitigating any possible threat. Build trust. Then show case study after case study showing how others have done just that, including your own well-articulated plan.”
10. Vanessa Sain-Dieguez (@VSdieguez)
“Discover the real issues – many times, with legal and other groups, the first reason for resistance isn’t the real reason. Once you find the real reason, work collaboratively to set up guardrails that make them comfortable.”
11. Lisa Hoffmann (@LisaHoffmann)
“Build relationships to engender trust, mutual respect. Make a persuasive business case. Research legal sources. Be persistent.”
12. Scott Monty (@scottmonty)
The most robust answer was from Scott Monty. I suspect he has seen quite a bit of experience on this topic being in the highly regulated automative industry.
“1. Use analogies so they can understand this “strange” new technology. Help them understand how they, as a legal team, dealt with email when it became necessary and to think about how prevalent that is today. New technology, same behavior.
2. Make sure you have a solid set of social media guidelines or policies. Show them http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php
3. Demonstrate some understanding and appreciation of the legal teams’s role: to protect the company from risk. Let them know that you want to work with them so that the business moves forward but in a way that doesn’t create unnecessary risks.
4. Show the CEO a Twitter search result of mentions of your company’s competitors. There’s nothing better than getting the support you need from the top (and lighting a fire under them).
5. Remember that the General Counsel reports to the CEO, not the other way around. The legal team offers counsel; they don’t direct business strategy. But also be aware that it’s better to have a good relationship with your legal team than it is to run afoul of them.
Connecting with your legal team early and often with an attitude of transparency and working together is so important in being successful in an organization.”
Have you had to wrangle with your legal team about social? What worked for you?
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