How to Stay Compliant While You Blog
When it comes to establishing an inbound marketing strategy, there are few things you can do as powerful as maintaining a blog. Whether you are an RIA or registered representative, your blogging efforts are considered advertising and will be subject to compliance reviews. How do you best navigate compliance while still keeping your blog fresh and up to date?
If you are a registered rep your hands are a little more tied when it comes to your blogging. You need to make sure that your compliance department has been made aware of not just your intention to blog but the aims you hope to achieve with your blog.
RIA’s are generally more free to self-police their blogging and therefore face fewer hurdles in establishing a blogging cadence and voice. RIA, however, must have an understanding of the blogging guidelines issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Don’t give the same advice to everyone
If the gist of compliance could be summed up in one sentence, it would be, “Don’t give the same advice to everyone.” Basically, any mass communication or advertisement can’t come across as making a firm recommendation.
“The bottom line here is do not make specific recommendations in any of your communications. You should keep your comments, posts, and interactions general in nature if you are referring to anything that is financially related,” says Stephanie Sammons, CEO of Wired Advisor, in “The Good News/Bad News of FINRA’s Social Media Guidelines Release.”
Another important thing to remember when creating your blog — or any other piece of content — is to avoid making guarantees. It’s better to use non-superlative language that indicates some degree of uncertainty. One way that you can do this is to use the term “we believe” to help communicate the appropriate degree of uncertainty. Or use conditional words, such as “may,” “can,” or “might.” The word “potentially” also can be used, too.
Understand how much lead time you will require when creating a blog
Does it need to simply be passed off with the compliance department or does it require a more comprehensive review? Often, the first few posts will require a higher level of scrutiny, but once your compliance officer and management oversight committee sees that you are blogging responsibly, the scrutiny may decrease and your turn over rate for your blogs can improve. This is also why it is important to not rely on your compliance department to catch “compliance mistakes” as it will decrease their comfort level with your blog and possibly increase turnaround time for future posts.
Consider the comments
Another important element of your blog to consider is the comments section. Are comments treated like a “public appearance” or will they require pre-review? While it may seem clear to you that the comments left on a post are nothing more than a reader’s response to the ideas written, it is incumbent on the compliance officer to monitor the comments being left to make sure they can not be construed as testimonials.
As long as the advisor is not exercising any kind of influence over the commenters, compliance departments may allow people make whatever kind of comment they like. It is important to realize that this will remain an ongoing concern for compliance officers. Many will simply require the comments section of the blog be turned off if there is not a specific policy or procedure to monitor and archive activity.