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The legal checklist: Ensuring compliance in your PR and marketing endeavors

by | Mar 28, 2024 | Public Relations

Communicators only succeed when they provide the right messaging to the right audience at the right time. That’s a tall order—but wait: It gets taller still. It’s also important for PR pros and marketers to be mindful of legal compliance, ensuring all their messaging and outreach efforts are legally above-board.

Consider that, in 2024, consumers are more tuned-in than ever before to concerns about personal privacy and consent. There are a number of laws in place to govern how PR pros and marketers can conduct their work, all while being respectful of these consumer concerns.

Before getting started with a new PR agency or simply launching a new campaign, it may be helpful to review a quick legal compliance checklist.

Regulations concerning online privacy

Many of the most notable regulations concern protections of consumer privacy

The European Union (EU) has blazed a trail for online privacy protections, confirming their reputation as a fierce regulator of the tech industry. If you’re doing PR or marketing anywhere within the EU, you’ll be bound by restrictions like the GDPR, as well as the Digital Services Act. The latter is intended to safeguard consumers against misinformation and hyper-specific targeting, particularly on social media platforms.

The United States hasn’t been quite so bold or so centralized in its privacy protection efforts, which means that most meaningful legislation is passed at the state level. For example, the California Privacy Rights Act has major consequences for marketers, requiring them to provide opt-outs for the sharing and for the selling of any data that’s collected. This is just one example of many decentralized laws that seek to provide consumers with more say in how their personal data is used.

What about AI?

One of the big stories in communications over the past couple of years is the advent of generative AI. Given the potential for AI to create massive amounts of misinformation, you’d think there would be some significant legislation in place. As of right now, most of that legislation is still in the works.

However, many major tech companies have passed rules and guidelines of their own. For example, Meta and Google have both taken strong stances against any type of AI-generated content that falsely portrays real people doing or saying things they never actually did or said. While these are not legally binding regulations, running afoul of them can lead marketers to being deplatformed, or their content penalized. As such, it’s crucial to keep basic AI ethics in mind.

Additional tips to ensure legal compliance

Beyond knowing these laws and regulations, there are a few additional steps that PR pros can take to ensure their efforts are above legal reproach.

  • Ensure the right legal structure. Marketing and advertising agencies must be mindful of their own legal category. The best option for minimizing legal risk and personal liability is to register as an LLC, or Limited Liability Company. The steps for doing so can vary a little by state (for instance, the requirements to form an LLC in Texas may differ from those in New York or Wyoming), so it’s important to check specific guidelines from the Secretary of State.
  • Stay up to date with industry-specific guidelines. Some industries are more carefully regulated than others, which means there may be some restrictions on what advertisers can and cannot say within a particular field. For example, it’s important to exercise extra legal caution in financial services or in health/wellness products.
  • Create internal guidelines. Balancing state, federal, industry-specific, and internal compliance needs can be challenging, especially when there are multiple cooks in the kitchen. To keep everyone on the same page and to ensure a high, consistent standard of excellence, create internal guidelines. Ensure they are reviewed and revised regularly, as the regulatory environment can change rapidly.

Make compliance a cornerstone of your PR and marketing

PR pros and marketers face many challenges and opportunities as they seek clear, targeted communication with their chosen audience. The nature of regulatory compliance can complicate things, but with some basic diligence, it’s more than possible to ensure your comms agency is legally above board. Start by committing these basic guidelines, regulations, and principles to memory.

Amanda E. Clark
Amanda E. Clark is a contributing writer to LLC University. She has appeared as a subject matter expert on panels about PR and social media marketing.

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