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4 Tips for Managing Creativity in a Highly Regulated Industry

By: Heather Lundgren, Marketing Communications Specialist & Guest Blogger for Celarity.

When we think of recognizable pairs, common ones come to mind. Peanut Butter & Jelly. Sonny & Cher. Movies & Popcorn….Creativity & Compliance?

Creativity & Compliance is an odd pair. The two words together make us want to stop dead in our tracks and run in the opposite direction, resting on our laurels to get by. “Creativity” with “compliance” is a challenge those of us in a highly regulated industry face when we’re asked to be innovative and try new things.

How do we appeal to a customer (an incredibly tough customer at times), while being compliant, conversational, and engaging? An article in Forbes suggests detaching yourself from reality. It also provides some good suggestions on simple ways to foster creativity.

I want to offer a few specific thoughts for those of us dealing with FDA/government regulations, based on my experiences in this environment:

Brand matters.

Pay attention to brand and be consistent. Taking time to elevate it when needed is where most of the creative opportunity lies within a marketing communications role – specifically in regulation.


How are relationships creative, you ask? The Regulatory and Legal teams are your workplace BFF’s and they’re in this with you. At the end of the day, they aren’t there to be the hammer and say no – they are partners. They want to hear what you’re trying to accomplish and help you find ways to do that (perhaps with disclaimers) while keeping the company compliant. Engage them early and often when venturing on a new initiative, tactic, etc.

Engage creative agency partners.

Engaging a creative agency partner may sound like an obvious decision, but I do believe an outside perspective is critical. When developing a new tactic, launch, campaign, etc., these are the folks who will help encourage you to think differently and provide solutions to do so.

Never fear a good old-fashioned brainstorm.

Let go of the compliance side for a moment and allow your mind to wander. This works best in a group dynamic. You can hold each other accountable and not allow ideas to finish with phrases like: “but what about legal” and “we can’t do that.”  Some of my favorite meetings have been brainstorming sessions because they get us out of our norm of thinking within guidelines. Plus, they open our eyes to things we can still do, but with a twist!

Bringing these 4 thoughts together, I want to emphasize how all of them contribute to staying out of your way. Creativity is stifled under such regulation and content becomes stale because we’re afraid to take a risk. The standard tactics we’ve been using for the last 20 years continue to live in our execution plans. It’s ok to try something new and fail. The information, data, and unique opportunities I’ve gained in pushing the boundaries have helped to develop stronger plans and tactics for the next communication effort.

I keep a frame on my desk that says, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Not only do marcom professionals need to communicate complex information in a clear, easy to follow fashion, but we’re also challenged with trying new things that may not be happening within the industry. I like to learn and take note from the large consumer brands out there by doing this daily. At the end of the day, our customer is still a consumer, and within regulation, there are ways to engage the creative muscle – even if it requires a few extra steps to get there.


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