The thought of meeting with your legal people to clear new marketing materials can terrify marketing people, especially if your legal people like to become editors as well as lawyers. However, remember that they are there to do a job just like you and there are things that you can do to enhance the relationship between marketing and legal. Here are some guidelines that have worked well for me over the years.
(1) If you use an agency and they are going to develop marketing materials (websites, brochures, ads) have them spend a day on site meeting with your legal people and editor. This is a great way to build a relationship and to learn what is acceptable and what is considered a “grey area”. I have done this many times and both parties felt it was a great first step to establish trust and get to know one another.
(2) Meet with your legal person on a regular basis – Try and get to know your legal person to understand just how flexible he/she is and what sets off warning lights. I have also found that when I share marketing research information with them and explain WHY I want to do something they “get it”. I also try and share what other biopharma companies are doing and why as well as review any relevant action letters from DDMAC.
(3) If you plan to make a lot of changes to your marketing materials/website let legal know and take into account their work load. Some people wait until a formal MARCOM of MLR meeting to present materials but when I was introducing new website changes or upgrades I always met with legal before hand and gave them a test URL so that they could see exactly what the changes are going to look like. I also included a short Power Point that included the objectives and rationale for what I wanted to do.
(4) If your legal people are inflexible try and understand who is the primary barrier – If for some reason your legal people just say no, even before they have a chance to review materials, try and understand the why and who and work to meet the key influencer within the organization that is setting this policy. Your objective is not one meeting and the screws loosen, rather it should be to gradually win them over and get them onboard to the importance of what you want to do.
(5) Make sure legal influencers are copies on all market research data and outside research data (Manhattan Research) – I never just sent data to people, I sent recommendations and actionable insights that were supported by the data. I also made sure that legal people were copied so that they could arrive at “ah-ha” moments.
There are some legal departments that more flexible than others but you’ll find that the longer you work with them the more you understand each other which in turn leads to more trust to do more. Legal people are not there to be barriers they are there to limit risk but today you need a clear definition on risk especially when fines can represent a substantial dent in company revenues.