In the media

Make your digital policies usable

There’s a lot more to creating digital policy than coming up with a list of rules.

Kristina Podnar
August 29, 2017

Kids break rules because that’s part of being a kid; adults break rules because they don’t know the rules or because following them makes their lives harder. That, in essence, is the primary reason digital policies fail. By the time digital workers have located the policy, found the applicable section, sifted through the legalese to figure out what it really says, and run it through somebody else to confirm their interpretation, people are wondering if the project is even worth it. So they “forget,” and your policies suffer a slow death in some obscure PDF file. Don’t let that happen to your organization!

Make compliance easy

If you want employees to comply with your digital policies, you have to make it just as easy to follow the rules as to break them. That means thoroughly understanding the processes involved in digital work and integrating your new policies into those processes. Essentially, treat your marketing and sales teams and business content writers as internal users who are equally deserving of a good user experience as your prospects and customers.

Here are some things to think about:

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Something about the word “policy” tends to make even seasoned writers switch to legalese, using wording that’s so indirect and convoluted that no one can figure out what the policy means. Digital policies shouldn’t require translation. If you want people to follow the rules, state them simply.

Make it smart searchable

Your digital workers aren’t going to scan a 20-page PDF document every time they have a policy question. Your digital policies need to be written in sections and made searchable, so that workers can type in terms like “logo colors for social media” or “email collection in China” and find exactly what they need.

Include related links

Take a lesson from bloggers, and include related links with every search result. For instance, if someone were to search for “approved colors,” the result could include links to entries on font types and sizes, logos, trademarks, etc.

Provide helpful tools

As important as it is to make it easy to find the policies, it’s just as important to make them easy to use. Instead of just listing the approved colors and sizes for logos, for example, include links so that users can just import an approved logo directly into the document they’re working on. If you have formatting standards, create templates that apply those standards automatically, such as pattern design libraries. If a certain person needs to sign off on a project, include a link to that person’s email and make certain that the name and email are kept up to date. For each and every policy, think of what you can do to make that policy easy to follow.

Be comprehensive

Keep in mind that digital policies don’t stop at the boundaries of your area of responsibility. To be effective, digital policies must include all aspects of an organization’s digital presence. Users should get a 360-degree view of the requirements for their project or marketing content.

Consider vendor partners

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to make your digital policies accessible to vendors or other third parties. If so, keep in mind that lack of security is more contagious than the flu: Any failure in security or compliance on their part transfers to you. The infamous Target breach of 2013 is a good example. Hackers used credentials stolen from one of Target’s HVAC vendors — presumably used to monitor energy consumption — to access the retailer’s payment network. So, if you’ll be giving partners or vendors access to your digital policies, make sure to give them access to the required digital policies, but isolate them from the rest of your network so that that they can’t be used to gain access to proprietary information or customer data.

Get your message right

“Spin” has a bad reputation, but the way you say things matters. “Only 33.4% of Americans 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree”, for example, sends a very different message than, “A full 33.4% of Americans 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree.“

People expect policies to be a burden, and presenting your digital policies in a way that suggests you expect resistance just confirms those suspicions. When talking about your digital policies, avoid referring to what employees can’t or have to do. Instead, talk about how the digital policies and the related tools you’ve provided will make their jobs easier.

Listen and adapt

We’ve all seen the mistakes that happen when businesses don’t bother to develop digital policies. And we’ve all encountered stupid policies…you know, the ones that make us roll our eyes and think “management doesn’t have a clue.” That typically happens when a policy is created in a vacuum instead of within the framework of how the job is actually done. Sometimes, however, even good plans go wrong. If people are complaining about a policy, find out why. They may have a good point that you can easily resolve. In addition, be open to feedback on how digital policies can be even more usable.

There’s a lot more to creating digital policy than coming up with a list of rules. The job isn’t done until the policies are integrated into existing business processes in a way that makes it easy to comply. An easy-to-use repository can help your organization succeed in delivering great marketing content and services. If you are curious how your repository and approach to policy stack up, get in touch and we can talk.

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