What Compliance Can Learn From Marketing

I’ve always been fascinated with marketing and how the profession is able to perfectly connect with their target audience.  About four years ago I was working as in-house compliance. It was during those 10 years that my appreciation for marketing and communication was born.  As in-house compliance, it was my job to brand the compliance program, create communications material and training that would resonate with employees at all levels of the organization.  I found that I had to walk a fine line, I needed to be different enough from all the other departments communications and campaigns so compliance didn’t get lost in the noise, but not too different that the corporate communication team came after me for being non-compliant with internal branding criteria.

I found that partnering with my internal communication and marketing teams was a highly effective way to walk that line on point and learn some pretty effective techniques along the way.

Here’s some of the advice that I got along the way that I think all compliance professionals can benefit from.

Tip 1: Brand Your Compliance Program

First,  I needed to develop and maintain a voice for the compliance program. Branding the compliance office, just like branding a company, will improve recognition. When you send out a communication to your employees they will know that it’s from compliance and hopefully seen and read and not deleted.  Branding also creates trust and inspire employees.  I found that employees were more likely to read our communications and put up less of a fight come annual training time once the compliance program appeared polished and legitimate. I also found that many employees need to know that they are part of an organization that has values and conduct business honorably.  Once employees understand the mission of the compliance officer and how and why we operated, they felt pride and wanted to be champions for compliance and ethics.

Tip 2: Find the right balance of humor, compassion and empathy

Someone once told me if they’re laughing, they’re listening.  Laughter has its place and can be very effective, but depending on your employees and corporate culture how you leverage humor, compassion and empathy can vary greatly from company to company. Every company is going to have its own corporate culture which can attract certain personality types.  You need to take the time to get to know your employees and your corporate culture.  And when you think about getting to know your employees you should also include other stakeholders like your board of directors.  Using storytelling can be a very effective way to communicate with your board as well as your employees.

Tip 3: Get your employees thinking compliance-first

One of the easiest ways to connect with your employees and create more engagement is to question them. During training or other types of campaigns, I would ask my employees questions.  I wanted to better understand their experiences and the work that they operated in and I also wanted to challenge them.  I think every compliance professional knows that you can’t teach employees every rule in the book, but you can teach them critical thinking skills and arm them with the tools, like a hotline where you can ask a question or something as simple as a decision-making tool, to help them make a sound decision when they find themselves in a gray area.

I think there’s are lot compliance professionals can learn from the marking and communication world.  My last tip and I think the most valuable is to make time in your schedule to talk to the organization’s marketing team.  They may not have the bandwidth to help you on a daily basis,  but I bet they would be happy to share some pointers on how you can better connect with employees.