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Best Practices for Content Operations in Highly Regulated Industries

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Content operations is a must-have department in every industry, even the heavily regulated ones, like aviation, health care, telecommunications, financial services, and energy. 

These industries have stringent compliance, legal, security, and regulatory requirements that the stakeholders must adhere to. All these regulations also apply to content. 

So, content ops in such industries can be a bit challenging. The following guide will highlight the best practices for content operations in highly regulated industries.

Understanding the Landscape of Highly Regulated Industries

A highly regulated industry is any business sector subject to strict government oversight and compliance guidelines. Industries that fall under this umbrella include: 

The common thread among these industries is the need for quality assurance and strict compliance with certain policies. Due to these controls, content operations experience significant challenges in these sectors. 

For example, content creation in the pharmaceutical industry should be in line with the regulations set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The health industry has to comply with HIPAA, while content creation in finance is subject to SEC and FINRA regulations.

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Importance of Content Operations in Compliance

We’ll preface this section by answering the question, “What is content ops?” Content operations encompasses planning, creating, managing, and delivering content. Sounds simple, right? Well, the process can be quite complex, particularly in heavily regulated industries. 

In such industries, your content has to comply with regulations. For instance, in health care, you can text patients. However, HIPAA texting rules require documented consent from the patient to receive these texts. 

Similarly, health care-related marketing content should not make over-the-top claims or false promises. Non-compliance with these regulations results in hefty fines, reputational damage, and legal consequences.

Key Components of Effective Content Operations

Content ops in a heavily regulated industry have some key components. These include:

  • Centralized content management: Transparency is an integral part of compliance. Centralized content management allows for easy tracking and monitoring of content, ensuring it complies with regulations.

  • Audit trails: External audits are common and often required by regulatory authorities. Before any external audit finds an issue, it’s better to conduct internal audits to weed out non-compliant content. Content operations teams also have to keep a record of these audits, including any corrective measures and their implementation status.

  • Rule-based access: Content in industries like finance, nuclear energy, and the pharmaceutical sector is highly confidential. You can’t have every employee peeking into it. Rule-based access ensures only those with proper authorization can access certain content. It also minimizes the risk of breach, which heavily regulated industries cannot afford.

  • Document lifecycle management: Content goes through several changes before it’s finally published. So, content operations should have a tool for document lifecycle management for version control. Some industries also require content to be retained for a specific period. Document lifecycle management tools can help with that, too.

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Implementing Robust Approval Workflows

Before you publish any piece of content in a heavily regulated industry, it must go through several reviews and a final approval. It’s best to create a workflow for this approval process. 

Let’s use the health care example again. You run a blog for your health care organization that publishes articles about new treatments. Here’s how the approval workflow would go for an article: 

  1. A content writer creates and submits the article to the editor for review. 

  2. The editor checks the content for accuracy and readability. If all looks good, they submit the article to the medical reviewer. 

  3. The medical reviewer verifies the information and makes any necessary changes. 

  4. Once approved, the article goes to legal for a final review. 

  5. If there are no legal issues, the article is published. Otherwise, it goes back to the first or second stage. 

The individual or teams at every stage must check the content for its compliance with regulations. No doubt, the process can be lengthy, but it’s much better than landing your organization in legal trouble. 

One way to cut some time from this workflow is by using automation tools to move content across the approval pipeline.

Data Security and Confidentiality Measures

Data security measures must be implemented throughout content operations. For one, use encryption protocols like SSL, TLS, and HTTPS when transferring files. 

Also, adopt identity and access management tools that set permissions for individuals who can access and/or share the content. For example, if you want to store content, use a digital asset management (DAM) system that offers access control features and secure brand portals where teams can collaborate and share content without compromising its integrity.

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Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation Strategies

Content operations aren’t a one-time deal. You must audit and assess your content operations continuously. 

Also, look at what everyone else in your industry is doing. Are there any new updates in regulations? Can you use new and better tools to improve your workflows? Staying abreast of new trends will help you stay afloat in the contemporary, dynamic business landscape. 

While you’re at it, don’t overlook the importance of internal feedback. Encourage your teams to provide their thoughts on the processes and tools. For instance, you might discover that certain departments struggle with specific tasks, like content approval or distribution. You can then use this information to update your processes or employ better tools.

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