Part 1: Identifying the Sources of Friction

Every marketing team aims to create and execute engaging campaigns that will attract and retain new business. Meanwhile, every in-house legal team wants the marketing function to be compliant and to support – not damage – the business’ reputation. To achieve this, both teams need to work together to minimise risk and maximise marketing outcomes. But in doing their jobs, sometimes both teams find themselves butting heads – over issues like missing information and turnaround times.

Does this sound familiar for your business? If so, hopefully your marketing and legal teams have put their heads together and figured out solutions to these common friction points. If they haven’t been able to do that yet, this two part series will help you to transform their relationship by:

  • explaining what motivates each team;
  • identifying the sources of friction; and
  • providing practical solutions to resolve them.

This article, Part 1, will help you to identify and understand what causes friction between your legal and marketing teams.

Putting the Shoe on the Other Foot

Before trying to identify sources of friction, it helps if both teams understand each other’s objectives. Does the Legal team understand what motivates Marketing? Does Marketing have insight into Legal’s role and responsibilities? Understanding each other’s motivations makes it easier to navigate towards resolution.

Marketing Team Motivations

The marketing team’s primary goal is to grow brand awareness and generate revenue through marketing campaigns designed to appeal to your business’ target market. While the campaigns may be planned in advance, once they’ve launched, the marketing team may well need to be responsive to developments as they arise, especially in social media.

For instance, if a campaign generates buzz, they may want to build on this with some additional collateral. This means being nimble and creating smaller campaigns quickly to maintain the momentum.

Either way, Marketing often needs Legal’s input to ensure the messaging will not inadvertently put the business at risk.

Reviewing marketing campaigns is just one of many tasks an in-house team must complete on any given day. Their core role is to ensure the business is compliant with regulation and mitigates risk. Meticulous by nature, few lawyers like being rushed, preferring to give a considered response. However, in-house legal teams often serve multiple departments, all of whom may believe their work should take priority. Not wanting to let anyone down, in-house legal teams often work long hours; not knowing what marketing work is coming down the pipeline can be very challenging for them.

And So Friction Arises Between the Teams

“Legal is taking too long to review my campaign! I need it out today!”

“Marketing keeps dumping reviews on us at the last minute! I’ve got other priorities!”

If you’re hearing these complaints, you’re not alone. In our experience, the following issues are the most common friction points between Marketing and Legal teams, resulting in wasted time, cost and frustration:

Common Issues Faced by In-House Legal 
Issue Result
Not using previous legal advice to pre-vet campaign collateral and update it to ensure compliance. Marketing not learning from previous advice, and in-house lawyers repeatedly identifying the same issues.
Lack of advance notice about imminent reviews requiring legal input. The pressure to quickly turnaround reviews while juggling competing priorities.
Incomplete or improper instructions from Marketing. Lost time and further delays due to Legal chasing additional information or reviewing the same collateral multiple times.
Common Issues Faced by Marketing
Issue Result
Legal does not offer to provide input early into a campaign (or is not invited to do so). Marketing forced to make last-minute changes to collateral that is already complete or rework whole campaigns, leading to delays.
Legal identifies a campaign or slogan as too risky, without suggesting an alternative approach. The message is diluted and has less impact, or marketing is required to think up alternatives.
Legal does not respond in the timeline requested by Marketing. The messaging is not published at the most appropriate or strategic time.

These problems generally arise when the teams are focused on their own objectives, without considering ways to help each other. So:

  • Marketing needs to help Legal understand why they want to use certain types of messages, and how it will impact on the results if the message is diluted; and
  • Legal needs Marketing to understand key messaging risks – why certain claims are denied and what laws or regulations might be influencing their decisions.

The outcome everyone wants is marketing collateral that is both compliant and engaging and turned around in an efficient, timely manner.

Working Together to Identify Pain Points

While you may have a good idea of what’s causing headaches for each team, it’s important to identify exactly:

  • what is causing the problem; and
  • at which stage of the process.

A simple way of identifying what is causing the friction is by undertaking ‘journey mapping’; literally, mapping the journey of a marketing campaign from its inception. You can do this as a diagram, or even Post-It notes in swimlanes on a wall. This will allow you to see at which points in the collateral’s life cycle that both teams are required to interact. It’s at these touchpoints that friction is most likely to occur.

Have representatives from both teams work together to complete the journey map. This is a great way to encourage open conversation, increase transparency and build relationships. It also ensures buy in and engagement from both teams.

Once the journey map is complete, consider what can be done to improve the workflow to reduce the likelihood of friction. For instance:

  • are there any missing touchpoints where Legal should be consulted, such as early in a new campaign’s development?
  • how much advance notice does Legal need if Marketing wants assets or collateral reviewed?
  • how quickly does Marketing need Legal’s review to be completed? For example, is it less urgent when the campaign is in the early stages of development, but more urgent once the campaign has gone live?

Update your journey map with the improvements identified, then document it and share it with both teams, ideally by bringing everyone together in the same room. Have representatives from each team jointly present:

  • what the process is currently;
  • where the friction points have been and why; and
  • how the workflow is being changed to remove these issues.

This approach helps to ensure everyone is on the same page, gives them the opportunity to ask questions and encourages buy-in to any proposed improvements.

Having mapped the current process and understood the pain points, it’s time to identify opportunities to improve the marketing workflow – and then to implement solutions. For this, read Part 2 in this series, Implementing Solutions that will Resolve and Remove Pain Points.