Social Media
ComplianceAugust 07, 2020

Building partnerships: Compliance and digital marketing

Many things in life are better with a good partner, and over the years, there have been a plethora of dynamic duos: Batman and Robin, Abbott and Costello, Lucy and Ethel, compliance departments and marketing teams. That last one might seem like a bit of a stretch in your institution. Compliance and those responsible for digital marketing can wind up at odds with each other. This is especially true in mortgage lending, where loan originators often leverage social media as their marketing medium of choice given its ease of use and broad reach.

While there are operational and compliance challenges in leveraging social media and other digital mediums for marketing banking products and services, there are ways in which a successful partnership can be built.

Make it easy to comply

Batman made it easy for the Boy Wonder to be his partner by giving him all the gadgets and tools he needed to be a great sidekick. So too must the compliance team make it easy for sales and marketing colleagues to comply with regulations and become meaningful partners.

Social media and other digital marketing mediums have similarities to print media and standard advertisements—and one similarity is repetition. As with any marketing medium, consumers may need to hear a message multiple times before it resonates, or before they decide to take action. This dynamic can create a perfect opportunity for compliance officers to collaborate with the marketing department to develop standardized templates and approved postings. Creating a portfolio of pre-approved, templated email content or social media posts not only reduces the burden on the compliance department to approve individual email campaigns or postings, but it also increases efficiency for marketing and the ongoing production of standardized campaigns. Templates and approved use content can be created to support and promote brand awareness, augment outreach activities of sales personnel, or when promoting product campaigns and special offers.

Aside from ongoing marketing and advertising activities, there will be instances necessitating the creation of outbound communications, such as notifications of changes to products or services, news releases or other forms of public relations outreach. While these communications may not trigger regulatory disclosure requirements, in every instance the same level of review and approval should apply prior to release to the public. Use of preapproved, standardized templates or an automated workflow solution can greatly enhance and control processes for moving marketing initiatives and outbound communications from concept to live digital communications quickly and efficiently. Automated workflow solutions that drive collaboration, review, and approval by all key stakeholders are increasingly becoming the standard for process tracking and record retention.

Another challenge that often results in a standoff between marketing and compliance professionals is the difference in languages spoken. Marketing teams are proficient in Twitter and Facebook lingo as well as finding and executing the perfect pitch, whereas compliance officers are proficient in regulatory requirements associated with the Truth in Lending Act, Truth in Savings Act, and the subtleties of what constitutes standards of fairness and avoidance of deception. Finding a way to bridge the gap between the two worlds can help form a long-lasting partnership. Consider creating a training guide developed collaboratively between the teams specifically focusing on regulatory tripwires such as trigger terms and disclosures, representative payment examples, when to include the Equal Housing Logo, or a mortgage originator’s NMLS identification number.

Guidance specific to digital advertising published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can assist in understanding what bankers should be aware of when creating and posting digital marketing content. The FTC guidance emphasizes the “4 Ps” —prominence, presentation, placement, and proximity—that should be carefully considered when creating digital content. Utilizing guidebooks with quick reference pages including visual examples that assist the marketing team with understanding regulatory requirements that size and print be clearly legible; learning how close to certain trigger terms that disclosures must be; creating content that is easy to understand; and understanding the importance of consumer access to disclosures are all steps that can streamline the process. Assisting both teams in ensuring social media posts exclude trigger terms and include all the appropriate disclosures and links should be the goal.

Communication is essential

Communication is essential to any successful partnership, otherwise your compliance and marketing teams may end up like Abbott and Costello, saying the same thing over and over, but still wondering who’s on first, or in this case—how to make social media posts compliant. The answer is relatively easy: bring key partners in early so each team has ample time to prepare and adjust as necessary. This approach includes sharing the results of compliance monitoring reports or the results of the most recent marketing and advertising audit. Including the marketing team as a partner to assist with compliance goals can be a truly powerful way to forge a perfect partnership.

Understanding the selection criteria of the target audience is particularly critical in digital advertising, where algorithms could potentially restrict recipients based on prohibited basis characteristics or some proxy for those characteristics. Providing marketing via streaming services or other digital channels can reach a broad audience in a hurry, however, there are risks to consider that the compliance team can explain and help the business to navigate proactively, such as fair lending considerations, disclosure placement and content requirements.

Response to negative feedback received via social media should be a top priority. Often, responses to social media comments or posts generate an automated response. Compliance has a responsibility to track complaints, especially those with any fairness implications, for escalation and trending purposes. Compliance and marketing teams need to regularly communicate information regarding potential complaints received via social media platforms to ensure that proper monitoring, root cause, and trending analysis can be completed.

Compliance and marketing partnerships can benefit from regularly scheduled meetings to discuss upcoming campaigns, any potential negative feedback received, and changes to social media strategy.


Compliance professionals have three favorite words that they apply to every conversation—document, document, document—and digital marketing activities are no different. Though the advertisements are digital, and they say the internet is forever, compliance teams and, more importantly, examiners will want to know the who, what, when, where, and how of every post. Rather than waiting for an exam request to come and then scrambling to take screenshots of social media posts in the days leading up to the exam, consider adopting a more proactive approach, such as an automated workflow solution as discussed above.

Compliance officers should work with the marketing department to develop a retention plan that includes record of review and formal approvals; the date and time of the original post; content; medium used such as Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, text or email; and target audience and criteria establishing the target audience. Much of this may be captured through an automated workflow tool if available.

Final thoughts

Marketing, including digital marketing, is often critical to a successful sales campaigns, and in the digital age, speed to market is important. A solid partnership between compliance and marketing can help to ensure that business opportunities are recognized and pursued in a timely, consistent, and compliant manner. Compliance officers and marketing team members may not always speak the same language, but they should have the same goal—the success of their institution. By focusing on proactive approaches to building a partnership, such as the use of approved templates, the creation and use of a marketing guidebook, open lines of communication, and setting expectations up front for review, approval, and retention, a partnership as strong as Lucy and Ethel’s can be built and last a lifetime.

Sara Resmer
Managing Consultant, Fair and Responsible Banking, U.S. Advisory Services
Sara leads a team that specializes in providing fair lending advisory services to financial institutions through review of fair lending program activities for conformance with regulatory expectations and overall effectiveness relative to the size and complexity of operations.
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