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How to ensure marketing materials are legally compliant (tips for non-lawyers)

When preparing any marketing materials, press releases or other collateral, you may want a simple, one-page checklist of things to think about, and steps to take to ensure it is accurate and ready for publication. This is not intended as a substitute for legal review, but ideally will speed up the review process and help eliminate last minute surprises.

As a marketing professional, if you run through this checklist before sending for legal approval, hopefully it will get a quick "rubber stamp" of approval.

If you are a small company and do not have a legal department review process (though recommended), here are some plain English tips on what you should look for and be thinking about.

Marketing Collateral Compliance Checklist

Content Accuracy and Backup
  • All facts and statements are true and correct, and not misleading or deceptive in any way.
  • All facts, statements and assumptions are clearly sourced (name and date) within my document by reputable source.
  • I have backup materials in my possession to verify all claims, express or implied.
  • We do not make any guarantees regarding outcomes or that this product will meet each person’s unique needs.*
  • I have not made defamatory statements (eg, about other brands or people).
  • Case studies included are accurate, correct, and not misleading.
  • All images are appropriate and not offensive or misleading.
  • The piece does not contain any unqualified superlatives or over-promotion (eg, replace “the best” with “among the best”).
  • Any competitive advertising claims (comparing our services to a competitor) have been independently validated.
  • We authored and/or own the rights to use all content commercially; text has not been copied from another source and is not subject to permissions from other owners (or if it is, we have permission and have provided attribution).
  • If copyrighted material is used, we have written permission and give attribution.
  • If an independent contractor prepared materials, we have an agreement with them permitting use.
  • We own rights to use all images, they have not been copied from the internet and are not subject to permissions from other owners (or if they are, we have the permissions and give attribution). 

Testimonials and Endorsements

  • Any experts referenced or quoted have approved the language and permitted us to use their name via release form.
  • Any testimonial is from a typical user, under normal use, and the user has given us permission to use their name (if applicable) via release form.
  • We have clearly disclosed if there is any compensation given to, or other affiliation with, such user.
Logos & Marks, and Design
  • I have used the correct logo(s), Trademark(s) and taglines, and complied with all applicable Brand Guidelines.
  • I have not squashed, stretched, distorted, changed colors or moved any elements of the logo(s) or pre-approved graphics.
  • I have not placed the logo directly over an image nor is it on a colored background.
  • I have not reduced the size of my logo to less than what is approved.
  • I have sourced my logo from the official company database, not copied and pasted from the internet.
  • All marks are properly identified with ®, ™, etc. as applicable.
  • If any third party marks are used, we have permissions and have complied with their usage guideline.
  • I have used the correct fonts and colors.
  • I have ensured that my design is clean, clear and simple.
  • Someone has proofread what I have written for punctuation, spelling and grammar.
  • I have included the correct disclaimer(s) eg, general advice, past performance, not giving any legal / medical / investment advice, etc.
  • All backup material, all consents and approvals, and all release forms from named individuals or people in images are in my files with this form and a copy of the advertisement.
  • I have followed the “Golden Rule” – if the tables were turned, would I object?
  • Customize and add other items as needed per context and industry (eg, may need more for regulated industry like healthcare, banking, pharmaceuticals, etc.)

* As a marketer, of course you want to imply that your product could work for certain types people, and you are able to do so. The key is not “guaranteeing” any specific result for any specific person, and only saying what types of people it works for rather than implying everyone with their unique individual situations will obtain the exact same results. For example, if a vitamin promotes better heart health, you can make claims (verified by studies) that it generally helps heart health in XYZ types of people or groups. But you cannot guarantee that if the person reading the advert takes it, he/she will be have a healthy heart, as there are many other factors involved.

Author: Brian Heller

Outside GC

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.

Published on 21st January 2016
(Last updated 28th March 2018)

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