Episode 4: How to Use Storytelling & Branding to Create an Engaging Compliance Program — Podcast Transcript
Speaker: Nichole Pitts (Host)
Welcome to episode four of The Ethintegrity Podcast. This is going to be a solosode where I’m pulling together key points and concepts from the first three episodes to talk about how you can use branding and storytelling to create an inclusive and engaging compliance program. My guests, Storytelling Coach Jessie Kate Bui and Branding Strategist Hilary Hartling, provided some great insight and tips into how to connect authentically with your audience.
In this episode, I’m going to synthesize this into actionable steps for your compliance department to ensure that you are creating and messaging a sustainable and impact-ready program.
One of the biggest challenges compliance departments face is getting the employees to really care and engage with their program. There is so much going on day to day with just the employee’s roles and responsibilities that adding on more boring or confusing content just increases their anxiety. Think of your compliance program as a product that you need to sell & your employee’s time and attention as the currency you want them to spend.
You’re trying to break through all of the noise of everything they deal with on an ongoing basis. So how do you get your program to stand out? How do you incentivize people to spend their currency on your program?
Well, that’s what we’re gonna discuss today. I’m going to give you some tips on how to use branding to intentionally and effectively connect your compliance department with your workforce in an inclusive and authentic way. Over the first three episodes of The Ethintegrity Podcast, my guests talked about storytelling as well as branding.
Branding Strategist Hilary Hartling defined branding as delivering an intentional experience to make your audience feel something and have them choose you as their top choice.
She also went on to share this formula that she created after 15-plus years as the Vice President of Marketing at Walt Disney Studios. She was inspired to create this formula based upon what she thought Disney does best to protect and expand their brand. While this formula was developed for entrepreneurs, I’ve modified it to use for in-house compliance departments.
So what is this formula? She calls it the MAGIC formula because Disney and Magic. The M in MAGIC stands for Make it Memorable, and this is where she talks about “pack an emotional punch”, whether we like it or not, humans are driven by emotion. People buy into things because of that emotional impact or some sort of advantage that your product offers. So you have to show how your product or service can improve your audience’s life. For the compliance department, it’s really showing how your policies and procedures are going to improve your employee’s work life. I feel as compliance professionals, sometimes we focus so much on the right and the wrong thing to do and showing case studies of people and companies that have gotten it wrong, that we don’t really talk about the benefits of being compliant and acting in an ethical way.
As compliance professionals, we can spend a lot of time focusing on getting employees to do the right thing, but how do you show them that this is a benefit?
Ethics and integrity have different meanings based upon the culture in which your employees are located. So when you’re trying to standardize across all the countries in your business, you have to show in each culture what the benefit is for them.
How does your compliance program provide a positive impact to their work life? How can your procedures and processes make their workday easier? When trying to connect with your workforce and make your program memorable, you have to understand from your audience what do they want?
The A in MAGIC stands for Audience First. This is where you’re gonna do some market research by soliciting feedback from your workforce. You’re going to be asking them what they know about your program. What are some of their current challenges that they’re dealing with? Are they connecting with your program? What are some of the things that they don’t understand about your program or they feel that your program is lacking?
There are different methods in which you can solicit feedback. You can do culture surveys, you can just send out a survey across your workforce.
My favorite way to solicit feedback is to talk to Employee Resource Groups or affinity groups. This ensures that I’m getting feedback across all levels of the organization and all parts of the organization. So I’m getting that diversity of thought. You could find out that parts of your program aren’t working for certain groups. Maybe for those that are neurodivergent, your training isn’t accessible. It could be that some of the terminology that you use in your policies does not translate well into other languages. Or maybe your policies are hard to read and written at a very high level that most of your workforce don’t understand, so they’re just not gonna read them.
Do you treat your workforce as a singularity? A lot of times with the compliance departments, we write our policies and our procedures and we roll them out across all of the organization. It really is a lift and shift. We don’t do a lot of customization, and that’s where we need to look at are we connecting across all demographics and abilities?
And I’m talking race, gender, socioeconomic, neurodivergent, abilities. Do you have employees that are hearing or visually impaired? What about culture or access to information? Age? Do we have QR codes that some people do not understand how to use? Are we putting our audience first? Are there new ways that we haven’t thought of to stay in touch or to listen to our audience better?
Let’s list all the ways that we might try that now and let’s try those new ways. How can we truly listen to our audience and understand where they are, what they need, what they love best about what you’re offering, but also how can you double down on the stuff that they love and just take away the stuff that doesn’t matter.
A great example of this is Blockbuster. They didn’t keep up with their audiences wants and desires. By not getting into streaming, they made it harder to connect with their audience because the audience wanted to stay home.
Just like with big box stores and Amazon, when people can get comfort and ease, they’re going to choose that.
The G in MAGIC is Great Storytelling. It’s where you’re looking at the quality expertise plus storytelling to create value. In episode one, my guest, Storytelling Coach Jessie Kate Bui, talked about two storytelling methods.
The first being the moral compass, and this is where we’re looking at things as black and white. The second was foggy mirror, and this storytelling method allows for there to be different moral compasses. With the moral compass, it’s one person’s sense of integrity and ethics that guides everyone. With foggy mirror, it’s everyone’s individual moral compass that plays into the story. And with compliance programs, what I’ve seen is that there is one standard of what’s ethical and what’s not, and we roll that out, but not understanding how does that fit and how is that received across your workforce? We’re also looking at the different power elements, like the established power, the foreign power. How do we message these things and where do bias and stereotypes come to play in? Are we able to understand how to really connect with your audience in a way in which they can really understand you?
Are we being black and white and engaging more in a monologue than engaging in a dialogue to understand from your audience what is it that they need.
Are you engaging with your workforce to tell a story that is very inclusive across your entire workforce? Jessie Kate had a great quote in episode one where she said, “Storytelling helps us change our minds and grow as people.”
And that is a great advantage for your compliance program where you look at how do you hook their interest and how do you connect with them effectively? How do you get them to even want to know about your program and your policies and procedures?
Jessie Kate used two great examples to explain the storytelling methods of moral compass and foggy mirror. With moral compass, she used the example of Star Wars and how in the movie it was very black and white. You’re good if you’re going with the Rebellion, you’re bad if you’re going with the Empire. There was really no in-between, and in order to be a good person, you really had to side with the Rebellion. And I asked her about Han Solo because he was the bad boy of the series.
But he chose “to do the right” thing by supporting the rebellion. There’s not really a lot of nuance there. But if you look at Game of Thrones, you have a lot of different moral compasses that are existing in that world.
And maybe there are people that you don’t really like that are doing a good thing for maybe selfish reasons, but what you’re looking at is people are complicated and how do you meet them where they are to explain the advantages of your ethics and compliance program. Some people may not understand that certain actions are deemed to be unethical, especially when you get into conflicts of interest because they’re looking at, “Well, if I know this person, I want to help them out, maybe help grow their business, or I want to help my family, why would this be deemed as a bad thing?” And it’s how do you message the program, the policies, and explain what the effects are of that.
The I in MAGIC stands for Imagination and Inspiration. I modified this to Innovation and Inclusion. This is where you’re looking at branding parts of your program and policies to make it stand out. You may have a mascot, logo or watermark, but whatever you have, it gives your program a look and feel that’s easily recognizable. You wanna use language to show them why this is important and why they should care. This information is what you’ve identified in your market research.
You also need to figure out and highlight your UVP your Unique Value Proposition. What does your compliance program bring to your company that provides you with a competitive advantage? How do you serve not only the company, but your employees in a unique way? You wanna make sure that you’re also addressing the feedback from your employee resource groups and your workplace community. If they’re raising issues and concerns, you need to ensure that you’re addressing that and circle back with them to talk about, this is the way in which we think we can effectively resolve some of the feedback that you’ve given us and talk that through to make sure that the resolution actually resolves the problem, and then assess how accessible your program and content are.
Use a variety of methods to communicate your program and to train on your policies and procedures.
So don’t just use online training or in person training where it’s just a monologue with you talking about each of the key points of your policies, but look at ways to make that interactive using Legos or facilitating workshops, using gamification, creating this fun environment where people are not just learning, but they’re also providing you with valuable information to help continuously improve your program.
You could also look at using your ERGs, your employee resource groups to beta test new policies and procedures or some messaging that you wanna put out. Is that messaging inclusive? Does it make sense? Is it having the desired impact and effect across all levels of your organization? Use a modality and entertainment style that works best for your environment. This could be developing infographics or fun and informative videos like maybe creating a Mission Possible game to where you make the participants agents that are solving some sort of issue that they would have to deal with in their day to day work lives.
Maybe it’s creating a podcast. One of my favorite podcasts is Therapy for Black Girls. In that podcast, they talk about a lot of timely topics, but they also connect it to pop culture and current TV shows. That’s something that you could do maybe with a podcast and you talk about compliance issues and current pop culture or maybe on Netflix talking about where you’re seeing some things come up. There’s a lot of great documentaries out on Netflix and Hulu.
How do you bring that in and insert compliance into what people are already talking about, meeting them where they are? Maybe you create a newsletter that you distribute on a regular basis, or ask to be included in the newsletter that your organization already does.
Think about also doing town halls or having this community time where people can get face time with you and feel like they connect with you. When people can put a face to a program, then they feel that sense of connection and you’re going to be able to create that emotional impact that we talked about in “M”, Make it Memorable. A great example of using innovation and inclusion is Fenty Beauty. The beauty market was already saturated with so many different makeup companies, but when Rhianna came out with Fenty Beauty and the 40 different shades of foundation. It really changed the game because she was so inclusive to skin tone and type that people felt that they were actually included and seen, and that’s what you want with your compliance program.
The final letter in MAGIC is C, Creating Synergy. Now I added in Clear Policies and Measurements. The focus of this is to make the whole work greater than just the pieces and the parts.
With synergy, we’re looking at how do you get in front of other audiences to ensure that there’s greater marketing of your program. So identify and engage your market partners, and this could be human resources, your DEI group, communications and marketing, health and safety, operations, finance, but partnering with them so that you can get your message out to their groups, but also that you can ensure that their messaging is getting out as well. This creates win-win, mutually beneficial messaging that helps raise the whole company as opposed to just working on your own in a silo.
In working with your market partners, it provides you with an opportunity to customize your messaging so that you are explaining the advantages of your program to that specific audience.
So if you’re looking at human resources, how does your compliance program and policies directly benefit them? What are some of the issues that they’ve brought up? How are you addressing them? How does it look like you’re working with them hand in hand versus dictating to them?
When I worked at Louis Berger, we partnered with health and safety because I noticed that in the environment in which we were operating, health and safety was always top of mind. So if you are in construction or manufacturing, health and safety is going to be number one because you wanna make sure that your workforce is acting in a safe manner when they’re on site.
So what I thought was why not partner with them so that when they’re talking about tips on health and safety, how can I add in some compliance tips there too? So they would have safety moments and we decided let’s add on and do compliance moments as well.
But one of the things was also how do we combine them together so that they understood it wasn’t separate, It wasn’t that it was health and safety and compliance.
How do you create synergistic messaging to where you’re talking about an overall theme, but people don’t see it as these different pieces? That’s where we’re getting into synergy, is that you wanna be able to message out one concept that may have different parts, but people don’t see that.
You also wanna make sure your policies and procedures are clear and simple. If you have complicated policies or long policies, your workforce aren’t gonna read those. How do you communicate what is expected of them in an easy way. You also wanna make sure that you create a set of key performance indicators or metrics to assess the effectiveness of your objectives and messaging.
How are you ensuring that your compliance program is actually getting the desired results? And then how are you messaging that out to your workforce on a regular basis? People wanna see that if you are expecting certain behavior from your workforce, how is that benefiting the workforce and how does that benefit them?
A great example of synergy is looking at Apple. Apple has the MacBooks iPads, the Apple Watch. All of their devices you can share across. And I found that regardless if I wanted to go to Android, I am so dependent on Apple because I wanna be able to pull my data from any of my devices.
And that’s the same that you should be thinking about with your compliance program, of how do you ensure that your compliance messaging gets out across all the communication channels in your business? How are you showing up everywhere to where there is no doubt that people are gonna know about your program?
And as you continue to expand your program and expand this brand that you’ve created, you have to think of also brand deposits and brand withdrawals. Hilary talked a lot about this, and she said with brand deposits, this is something that reinforces your mission and your purpose.
It keeps your messaging on track and it effectively engages with your workforce. These brand deposits should be something that enhance and benefit your program. Now, a brand withdrawal could be something that devalues your program. It’s not keeping up with what’s going on in the business, or it could be misaligned with the department’s purpose. A good example of this might be Peloton. Their mission is to use technology and design to connect the world through fitness, empowering people to be the best version of themselves anywhere at any time. So their brand deposits are using hashtags to create community, having instructors that are full of motivation and focus on how you feel rather than how you look, creating an inclusive environment where they have pre and postnatal classes. You can hide those if you get triggered. They have a Speak up series about race. They do rides to celebrate different cultures and different theme months. They’ve also added on instructors that are doing rides in other languages, such as Spanish and German. Another brand deposit that they’ve done is making fitness accessible for people with disabilities.
On the other hand, there have been some misses and they’ve had some brand withdrawals. An example of that is that 2019 Christmas commercial that was seen as very sexist. Then you had Peloton featured in the first episode of The Sex and the City reboot. And spoiler alert, Mr. Big died on the bike after having a heart attack during one of the classes.
This created a huge PR issue for Peloton because people assumed that the bike wasn’t safe. This was a brand withdrawal because it devalued the overall Peloton brand. And finally there is a collaboration between Peloton and Ashton Kucher as he trains for a marathon. Each week he invites certain guests to be part of his training program. One week he invited Kim Kardashian and that created a whole uproar because she’s been known to use surgery, and some would say unsafe methods in which to lose weight which goes against what Peloton wants to be known for, which is accepting yourself as you are and just being healthy and knowing that an athlete comes in all different shapes and sizes.
Some questions to ask yourself before you roll out a major initiative or campaign is, does it support your purpose and your mission as a group? Is it aligned with your group’s core values? And have you added too many things so now there is confusion or compliance fatigue.
So to recap some key points on how to use branding to intentionally and effectively connect your compliance department with your workforce in an inclusive and authentic way.
Number one. Embrace branding to increase visibility and cut through the noise. Number two, use the MAGIC formula to ensure that your messaging is inclusive and engaging. Remember, MAGIC stands for Make it Memorable Audience First, Great Storytelling, Inclusion and Innovation, and Creating Synergy and Clear Policies and Measurements.
And number three, when you’re looking at expanding your program and your brand, decide whether or not it is a brand deposit or a brand withdrawal. Is this initiative or message going to benefit your program in the long run? Or could it possibly devalue your program?
If you want to understand more about the impact and influence of storytelling, then check out episode one of The Ethintegrity Podcast with my guest Storytelling Coach, Jessie Kate Bui. If you want to understand more about the magic of inclusive branding, then listen to episode three of The Ethintegrity Podcast with my guest Branding Strategist, Hilary Hartling.
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