Not all marketers have full creative license when it comes to interactive marketing. Privacy laws, government regulations, company policies as well as a lack of internal budgets and support can create a very restrictive environment when it comes to enabling interactive innovation in highly regulated industries.
As a marketing technologist who has received more than a few complaints from insurance and financial services agents, I was enthusiastic to attend a presentation entitled ”Interactive Innovation in Highly Regulated Industries” hosted by the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA). The information was presented by a panel of healthcare and banking industry executives from some of the Twin Cities’ biggest companies; UnitedHealth Group, Medtronic, and Wells Fargo.
As the Collaboration-Strategist, VP at Wells Fargo, Kelli Carlson-Jagersma is managing a team approach. When employees request a new marketing channel they want to engage in, she sets up a strategy and tools that will allow employees to practice internally between the product and marketing teams. The results are then presented to HR and compliance, who are pleased with the due diligence this strategy has provided. If a project is approved, external communications are written by the marketing department, reviewed by HR and approved by compliance.
Kelli identifies her approach as being very strategic. From her perspective, innovation and social media can’t live on their own. They need to be incorporated into an integrated marketing strategy, particularly if they are to be a component of innovation. “It has to be a team approach,” she says.
As the Principal Digital Marketing Strategist for Medtronic’s Neuromodulation division, Ward Tongen is in charge of strategically leveraging search engine marketing, social media and web analytics. He supports a team of web strategists whose jobs are to drive the new innovations at Medtronic. Like Kelli, Ward identifies innovation as being a team approach. “It’s not enough to simply appoint certain people as innovators. You want to raise the sea level across the board and make innovation a pillar of the marketing strategy. It’s not a job title, it’s a corporate mandate and culture.”
Marti Nyman, Director of Innovation and Strategy at United Healthcare is focused on creating value add products and services that are, as he explains, “end runs around the regulations.” He creates new strategies, using a variety of proven tools and approaches, ranging from new business ventures to M&A to refocusing the brand to crafting unique channel alliances. “I thrive on being able to work with a creative team that refuses to accept the status quo as the future of a business,” he states.
Innovations at United Healthcare fall under four distinct pillars: empowering consumers, enabling access to quality care, helping the system work better and improving affordability. The products and services created under this paradigm can be seen at the UnitedHealthGroup Innovations Website.
All presenters agreed that developing a good relationship with the representatives from the appropriate regulatory agencies is worth the time and effort. As one presenter offered, “Chocolate and wine help.”
Enabling Technologies and Policies
While innovation may be a corporate objective, many regulated companies have yet to even begin the process of engaging interactively with their audiences. According to an Oct 2012 report in Computerworld, only around 10% of regulated industries have a “truly social” enterprise where multiple social media tools have been integrated into general content consumption.
The good news is that there are a growing number of software vendors offering cloud-based services that manage, retrieve and archive social media content in support of compliance regulations. The software manages pre- and post-review options to ensure content is appropriately vetted, published and archived in support of company requirements.
Leading players include, but are not limited to, Actiance, Autonomy, Erado, HearSaySocial, Recommind, Smarsh, Socialware, Sungard, Symantec and Zylabs.
In addition to managing the social media process, several of these solutions can be programmed to identify content that doesn’t comply with regulatory and corporate policies, reducing the need for human monitoring.
While having the right tools can facilitate the process and limit damages from non-compliance and possible litigation, the tools are only as effective as the policies and people behind them.
Social media policies define what can and cannot be published in social media. Since regulations and rules speak only to what cannot be done and are constantly changing, defining a set of policies can be challenging. For most companies, the policies are developed by a team comprised of marketing, legal, PR, HR and IT employees and consultants.
Privacy is a particularly challenging aspect, as so may of the social media accounts are owned by individuals, as opposed to the company. Can an employer scrape information from an employee’s blog, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account? If an employee tweets for work, who owns the followers, the employee or the employer? Can an employee express opinions that don’t mention the company? What procedures are in place if the policy is breeched?
As a means of mitigating potentially damaging social media posts, many regulated companies are creating libraries of pre-approved content that employees can incorporate into their social media activities. While experts agree that this is a valuable strategy for initiating activities and training employees, they also identify that it is a combination of both pre-written and individual postings that deliver the most effective results. According to Katherine Kirkpatrick, Director of Docial Media for First Command Financial Services, “It’s in the personal relationships that the value of social networking emerges, and you can’t build those on a foundation of canned content and automatic replies.”
The Future of Interactive Innovation
Regulations, litigation, technology and creativity are going to be the driving forces for innovation in regulated industries. As regulated businesses learn how to engage with prospects and clients in new and exciting ways, as the courts resolve the lawsuits stemming from the new social world, as technology platforms provide for more and more enabling constraints, and as companies create cultures that enable their thought leaders to develop new ways of solving customer problems, the future will emerge.
My personal favorite consumer health innovation dujour is Virtuwell.com. This Health Partners service offers online diagnosis and treatment of many common “everyday” conditions such as bladder infections, STDs, flu, skin and nail irritations, and more. The services are offered 24/7/365, from the comfort of your home – or from anywhere in the world for that matter. You receive a diagnosis by a nurse practitioner in 30 minutes. Insurance is accepted for the $40 fee.
Does it solve a problem? Yes. Does it add better value to the customer? Yes. Is it innovative? Yes. Is it complicated or difficult? No.
On developing innovations in regulated industries, Marti Nyman offers the following advice:
- Know the “guardrails” – it’s not just about what you can’t do, but what you can do.
- Know that regulators don’t exist to make life difficult. The regulations are meant to protect the consumer, the company, and their clients. If you bring something to change the experience, the regulators are willing to have a conversation.
- Know where the regulations are silent. The opportunities are in uncharted territory where companies can create new value.