When you hit the regulatory roadblock...
Sometimes, your content team will be met with resistance when trying to remove content from your organization’s website.
“Oh, that’s regulatory stuff. We need that.”
“No, you can’t take that off. It’s legally required.”
And certainly, there are some types of content that will need to stay. Your organization may be required to keep any of the following information online, at least temporarily:
- Annual, quarterly or financial reports
- Terms and conditions
- Project plans
- Departmental performance reports
- Strategic priorities
- Executive salaries
- Regulatory documents
- Past news releases
But a lot of “required” regulatory content isn’t actually required at all. People just think it is, or legal teams are pro-up-front-disclaimer. Or maybe your company is just storing content on the public website for lack of a better alternative.
So here are some steps you can take if you meet up with resistance.
1. Get the facts. Figure out what the actual legal and regulatory requirements are, including specific phrasing. Check with the overseeing body. The Government of Canada, for example, has helpful information on managing and archiving web content.
2. Move legal content into storage. Adopting a technical solution that will allow for the historical storage and retrieval of legacy legal content. Heritrix, for example, is a free web crawling program written by the Internet Archive and used by the U.S. Library of Congress to create web archives. There are several open source crawlers to choose from.
3. Communicate required content well. Create page designs, content models and flows, and interaction designs that allow required content to be communicated in a way that’s least intrusive and most useful to the audience. Remember to prioritize by audience need. If you have to keep annual reports around for five years, display the most recent one up top with a large photo and teaser content. The previous years can take up less valuable real estate in a simple list below.
4. Remove what’s not required…where you can. Remove or reduce content that’s not legally required and not meeting audience needs. This will depend on your organization’s comfort level. Make a case for improved business impact and audience experience without all the superfluous content in the way.
5. Edit what’s left. Determine how much of the remaining content can be revised into plain language. This is important both for legally required content, and for information that’s not technically required, but is institutionally ingrained.
6. Maintain it. Implement a standard and consistent maintenance process to archive content that is no longer legally required. Terms and conditions for contests or sales, or quarterly or annual reports can easily be forgotten and left to clutter your website once their required lifespan has past. Schedule in, automatically if possible, a maintenance audit to track what content is still current and relevant.
The aim is to keep as little legal and regulatory content online as possible, and make it as unobtrusive as possible, where “as possible” is a function of actual regulatory needs + value to audience + institutional willingness.
A note on making friends…
If your organization has a legal team that sets a lot of the standards for required content, then it’s worth getting know them. You could schedule a chat or bring them cookies. Not just to get them on your side, but also so you can listen to them and understand the realities that they need to work with.
Good luck and get archiving.