Posted by on Oct 26, 2009 in Business, Communicate, Community, Corporate, Employment, engagement, Law, Legal, Social, Social SEO | 0 comments

7 Steps to integrate your corporate legal department and an evolving social business model seamlessly.

(This post is designed more for those deep in the corporate trenches, looking for guidance on how to plan out a new guidelines around social business practices policy).

As social business communications become more prevalent in your marketing strategy, it should be expected that legal will also become more adamant about creating documents to lock down your companies brand message.

Evolving integrations of social with current legal policies and communications can be difficult for many reasons.  In an era of personal branding there is usually a cause-and-effect scenario. Legal documents with lots of legalese are in place for many reasons. Primarily to protect the best interests of the company from outside, legal is there to defend the fort.

Since legal has had some influence in every business practice since the beginning of time, they are very traditional in their ways the majority of the time. Legal acts as the big brother to every department within the company including all employees.  Sometimes the associated legal document’s commands can be excessive and unnecessarily wordy in an age of technology and even infiltrate evolving forms of communication mediums.  It becomes a natural instinct to broadcast the message and lock it down with legalese.

The power of the message and contents is shifting out of the legacy from a singular mediated source to multiple channels.  There is fear and panic at most levels of upper management, traveling down through the internal infrastructure.  The response is either openness to learn about new communication or a total knee-jerk response which usually ends up in the form of shutting down and ignore the new tools available for monitoring conversations, with an extra Dollop of “do – not” from legal on top.

There’s a new compromise in between individuals and corporate, that is worthwhile mentioning.  It is an old fashion tactic and works every time. Open the doors of communication internally between current employees, legal and upper management.  In this situation there is no point of too much communication, with so much to be gained.

Ideally, I would highly suggest hiring a consultant who understands brand awareness building communities and a showcase of social media tools. Years of hands on experience in building businesses and has a solid grasp of communications. You want the consultant to act as a go-between legal and to represent your employees as they evolve into social mavens.  Through surveys, research and other forms of communication internally will provide insight into the internal employee community, culture and customer concerns. The consultant would compile the data and discuss the data with legal department.

1. Research

Be aware and observe the trends outside the company. How are your competitors using social media to affect their lead generation? How are other legal departments adapting their policies to social communications? Here’s a great list of current social policies being used customized different business can indication styles. This a breif overview of some social Media concerns.

2. Monitor

Monitor using social tools to examine whom is discussing your brand online, your competition, your employees and the sentiment about your brand.

You can use the simplest systems as, and others are mentioned in my slide deck here. If you would like to upgrade to a more through product I would suggest Radian 6, Techrigy or DNA 13. Any of those systems accumulate the data quickly to give you answers that you need quickly. You can discover whom is discussing your company, is discussing you, when, why and what.  Are there any employees that are actively blogging? Who is acting as an evangelist for your brand for your type of product or service. Pay attention to who outside of your company is discussing your product or service. (We will discuss how to use this information for good in the next post in this series)

3. Fundamentals

Interview and ask questions. Take a census of your employees, what do they think of how your brand communicates their message? If they are familiar with social media how do they think that social media can be be used to increase their customer service?  How could social tools improve your business?

Every lead is based on building a trusting relationship with a potential client and with you. There are approximately seven to eight touch points required to build a relationship before trust is capable. Social media connections allow for those doors to be open quicker and in smaller touch points. Distinctively less direct and less intrusive than an old fashioned regular phone call might be.

Employee departments that I would include in my research and census would be customer service, sales, technical, and marketing. This because all these departments are on the front line with your potential consumer establishing touch points before the sale is actually made. They nurture the lead and foster a relationship long before the potential lead can be quantified.

4. Accumulate and Translate

Translate the data accumulated.  You would be surprised what you learn.  You will obtain a much better idea of what’s going on inside your company. Additionally, you will also get insight into common consumer questions, which should be redirected into your customer service model. Customer service reps should also be made aware of solutions to these issues regularly. In your company are evangelists for your organization.

5. The Sit Down

Bring all the data and research to the table and hash it out with legal. Legal should have collected some thoughts on key points that are major concerns to the companies infrastructure.  Collects legal samples here and here.

Define the final key points legal wants to lock down.  Define the guidelines for internally and externally alignment within the company. It is okay to source new talent from within your own company walls.

The CEO and upper management is not always the ideal candidate to represent the company in social engagement.  Too often they end up being broadcasters and sales pitch experts.

Define clear guidelines to insure internal individuals or employees that blog and externally align employees that blog.  What is the clear difference between the two roles? Responsibilities, company support alignment, value and content.  What platforms do you decide to use and who is authorized to respond when a negative comment comes in? Determine the best response when the PR nightmare happens. Prepare ahead of time; and anticipate and avoid potential problems.

Define whom in your marketing department measures, the SEO traffic and the social search traffic and pulls numbers together monthly to determine the effect on site traffic, site sentiment, additional leads down the sales funnel, and engagement process. Poll numbers monthly or per campaign for the most efficient accuracy. Pay close attention to the engagement stats.(Refer to number two for monitoring tools).

6. Educate and Enable

Educate and train your employees in social business practices because you’re externally and internally aligned social candidates will be dealing with leads on a one-to-one basis daily.  It is important to maintain a set of guidelines and clearly and openly communicate them. An example, would be ten guidelines. So that confusion and miscommunication does not occur. Your new legal document can assist with this ,but your ten basic guidelines must be also clearly posted within the department.  Marketing and sales departments should be aware of them as well.

Hire a consultant to come on site or send your externally aligned employees for basic training in how to use the variety of social tools to the benefit of the company without compromising their own situations. An educated consultant will teach social principles and how they wrap around the fundamentals of marketing and business communications that have existed for years.  Most important, your social media instructor must must be a thought leader in the industry. It’s very easy to track his or her record of accomplishments online nowadays. In addition, they must have a history of experience. All different types of marketing campaign including direct mail, SEO, SEM, community building, e-mail marketing, campaign, PPC, content development and other commonly used thought processes current with today’s business practices. I highly advise sending your legal team to the same classes as well. Help legal get a better understanding of what is to come in the future as technology evolves and affects business the new business model.
(Sokolove Law is a firm the understands the social legal dynamic.)

7. Summary

At step seven you will have to determine within your organization and decide who is externally aligned and representing your initiative in to the social sphere. You will have to have a clear idea of whom those individuals are at this time.

They need to be active online with a trusted transparent presence.  The signs of evangelists are their passion about your company, product, blog and a sense of the social business model will be definite signs. Content of value and insight should always be in mind.  When they blog, are they conveying a message online that individuals engage and respond to? This externally aligned evangelist for the company must versed in social tools, social etiquette, and legal requirements deemed by the company after steps one through Four.  Usually more than one candidate is ideal to offer a diversity of opinions.

Being externally aligned with the company as well as being an employee is a difficult and weighted position. The company needs to be supportive and open to creative online ideas in which to convey the companies message to outside potential clientele is important. This candidate must be versed in how the product or service the company sells, solves the problem of the consumer. Having a repetitive solution to the consumer’s question builds a trusting relationship and brand over time.

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Elizabeth Hannan is a seasoned Digital Business Strategist recognized by Inc. Magazine, CBS, Business Journals and others. At Blue Blazing Media she serves as Chief Digital Strategy and User Experience Designer consultant. In 2013, her first book Naked Experience will publish. When not creating content you can find her speaking.

Elizabeth is also the founder of WhenToZen, a community of traveling women entrepreneurs and executives finding healthy life balance and adventure offline.

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