How to Make Sure Your Marketing Copy Passes Legal Muster

by Michelle Salater on October 27, 2011


Whether you publish online or offline, you need to make sure your copy is within the law. It may not be something you think about every day, but it is a vital consideration for the well-being of your company. We live in a litigious society, and you need to ensure that anything your company or your employees say or publish is unambiguous and compliant not only with industry standards, but also with legal requirements.

*Disclaimer: we are not lawyers or legal professionals.

Know the law.

If you’re not positive how the law applies to your business, be sure to talk to your lawyer and know what you can and cannot say. In addition to the law at all levels from federal to municipal, you may be required to comply with regulations set forth by other regulatory agencies such as OSHA or FTC. A couple of years ago, FTC enacted guidelines that regulate the use of endorsements and testimonials in marketing copy, so be familiar with those.

Your lawyer should know what you can and cannot say, so have him or her review your marketing copy before releasing it.

Understand your industry standards. No matter which field you’re in, you have guidelines to follow when it comes to doing business, and a significant part is marketing language and strategy. If you’re not sure what those standards are, contact your licensing authority or regulatory agency. Industry groups you belong to are also a good source of information, but always verify what you hear from peers.

No libel, slander, or plagiarism. Another reason to have your lawyer check your work is to ensure that you don’t defame another’s character. For online copy, detectors like Copyscape will check to make sure no one can claim you have plagiarized copy.

Check, double check, and triple check. Do not put anything in print unless you are positive it is truthful and correct. Write your copy so it is clear, concise, and precise, and make sure your lawyer approves it.

Anyone who writes copy for you should have a good understanding of the guidelines you must operate under; however, a copywriter cannot be expected to know every aspect of the law. A good copywriter will make an effort to write copy that passes legal muster, but he or she should not be held liable if a mistake is made. In the end, it is your responsibility to make sure your copy conforms to rules and regulations.

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