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Alexis Hall

Strategies for Online Marketing Innovation in Highly Regulated Industries

By Alexis Hall     MIMA Seminars, Online Marketing

Healthcare PhotoOn a gray and snowy morning marketers from the healthcare, finance and government sectors headed to the Swedish American Institute in downtown Minneapolis for a MIMA event titled Interactive Innovation in Highly Regulated Industries.

Moderated by Melissa Berggren of Allina Health, the panel of experts included Marti Nyman, Director of Innovation and Strategy at UnitedHealth Group, Ward Tongen, Principal Digital Marketing Strategist at Medtronic and Kelli Carlson-Jagersma, Collaboration-Strategist VP, Wholesale Social Strategy at Wells Fargo.

Gaining approval on marketing strategies, content and tactics within highly regulated industries can be rife with challenges. Including regulation from governing bodies and documents (like HIPPA, the FDA and the SEC), resistance from your compliance and legal departments, and a ‘we can’t do that’ attitude when it comes to innovation.

TopRank works with clients in the legal, government, and healthcare spaces, so I was really looking forward to the opportunity to listen to the panel discuss the strategies and tactics their businesses have for overcoming marketing challenges related to regulation.

So what are the most commonly asked questions from marketers in healthcare, government and legal industries and how would the panel of experts answer them:

FAQ of Innovation in Regulated Industries

Why are these industries so regulated? What is at stake?

The public’s private information such as personal healthcare, banking and legal details are at stake if a hack were to occur on a social media site or other web property. The objective of the legal and compliance teams is to maintain the safety and privacy of the customers, employees and company.

Who has been impacted by hacks?

There has been as estimated 20 million people impacted by hacks.

What are the regulating bodies or rules you are dealings with most frequently?

The regulating bodies change from industry to industry, but frequent suspects include HHS (Health and Human Services), HIPPA, the FDA, the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) and FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority).

How do you expedite the approval process from the legal/compliance team?

Marketers should not hesitate to make a best friend in compliance at their organization. Reducing the barriers between compliance and marketing can facilitate the approval process so that approval is accomplished more often and more quickly.

How do you do innovation in a highly regulated industry?

Innovation doesn’t necessarily require invention, rather fresh new thinking that creates value within an organization.  For example, Medtronic hosts an annual  Innovation week . Not only does this event inspire innovation from all employees that week by making it fun and novel, but also gives the entire team permission to be innovative all year long.

What are your strategies for gaining approval on innovative strategies internally?

At Wells Fargo, Kelli explains that the same rules for social media apply internally and externally.  Although this may seems like more work, internal channels are a good opportunity to prove out innovation. Internal blogs and social media channels provide employees a great chance to practice Tweeting or creating blog content.  This practice content can also help win the approval of the compliance and regulatory team in a safe environment.

Ward shares the example of the Practice Management Advising website at Medtronic. The objective of this website is to work with physicians to improve their practice. By not talking specifically about Medtronic products and therapies, the website becomes an unregulated arm of the marketing department.

What are the key takeaways for marketers in a regulated industry?

From Kelli Carlson-Jagersma:

  • Provide governance to employees.
  • Educate employees from all departments on the business benefit of balancing regulation and innovation.
  • Incorporate innovation into your long term business strategy.
  • Push the envelope when it comes to building awareness of legal and compliance.

From Marti Nyman:

  1. Know the guardrails of what you can and cannot do within your industry.
  2. Regulators exist to keep people safe, not to make life difficult. In the end, their objective is to make the healthcare experience better, so if you have a great idea don’t be afraid to speak up.
  3. If you are looking for new spaces, know the areas where regulators are silent. These are great opportunities for innovation.

From Ward Tongen:

  1. Question your assumptions and expectations:  Don’t assume everyone within your organization knows the ins and outs of newer media. Take the time to show someone from the legal or compliance team the embed controls of a YouTube video or the  sharing potential.
  2. Don’t just let things die easily:  At times the gut reaction within these industries is ‘we can’t do that’. Instead of assuming, push a little harder internally and see where you can get.

Internal and external factors can set up roadblocks in regulated industries, but a big takeaway from the panel was to be persistent when it comes to pursuing innovation.

If you are in a regulated industry, what strategies do you use for innovation?


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