May 4th is universally recognized (at least in the universe I inhabit) as Star Wars Day. According to Wikipedia, “May 4 is called Star Wars Day because of the popularity of a common pun spoken on this day. Since the phrase “May the Force be with you” is a famous quote often spoken in the Star Wars films, fans commonly say “May the fourth be with you” on this day.” Given the rejuvenation of the franchise, in the form of Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens and with the release of Star Wars VIII, The Last Jedi, scheduled for December 2017; all Star Wars fans and have reason to celebrate this May 4th in a manner we have not seen for some time.

The most recent entry into the Star Wars oeuvre was a prequel entitled Rogue One. It was a rollicking fun ride with hints of many of the characters that appeared in the first Star Wars movie A New Hope way back in 1977. It also had one of the most ingenious technical innovations, in a series filled with technical innovations, that of bringing Peter Cushing to life as Governor Tarkin. It will be interesting to see if Carrie Fisher receives the same treatment or if there was enough footage filmed before she moved permanently to the Star Wars universe last December.

In honor of May 4th, Star Wars and Carrie Fisher, today I want to consider the use of video to assist ongoing communications in a best practices compliance program. It has certainly been proven that social video can boost your company’s brand awareness and its sales. Why not consider using video to boost your compliance functions brand awareness and help spread the message of your corporate values and ethos. In an article in Inc., entitled “Get Rolling”, it reported that Facebook now generates an “average of eight billion video views per day and YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year olds than any cable network in the U.S.” Why not take advantage of this natural tendency to produce compliance focused content that would engage your compliance customer base – your employees.

The article provides three short guidelines to consider which are equally valid for considering communications from the compliance function. The first is to have a plan around what you want to do. This includes not only your script but also your budget. It does not have to a large high dollar production. You can shoot a video in your office, literally using your iPhone if that are all the resources you can muster. I recently attended the tech conference Collision 2017 and in the press area, there was a set up for interviews using iPhones. At the 2016 SCCE Compliance and Ethics Institute, Kortney Nordrum recorded Roy Snell and myself for a live session of Unfair and Unbalanced using her iPhone.

Another resource is your corporate media function. A great example was a CenterPoint Energy video put out in 2015 after the Volkswagen (VW) emissions-testing scandal become public. The video featured Scott Prochazka, CenterPoint Energy President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He used the VW scandal to proactively address culture and values at the company and used the entire scenario as an opportunity to promote integrity in the workplace. But more than simply a one-time video, the company followed up with a with an additional resource, entitled “Manager’s Toolkit – “What does Integrity mean to you?””, which managers used to facilitate discussions and ongoing communications with employees around the company’s ethics and compliance programs. Finally, as noted by Amy Lilly, Director, Corporate Ethics and Compliance at CenterPoint Energy, the cost for the video was quite reasonable as it was produced internally.

This CenterPoint Energy example brings up another key point which is timing. Just as many Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) used the New York Times (NYT) breaking story on Wal-Mart’s alleged Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations in Mexico back in 2012 as an opportunity to brief senior management on what can happen when your company appears on the front page of a Sunday NYT edition for FCPA violations; CenterPoint Energy used the VW emissions-testing scandal as an opportunity to not only reaffirm its own corporate values but also engage in ongoing communications.

Another key element is also built around time and it is that “short videos are good videos”. You can have a series of short videos communicating different aspects of your compliance program. It can range from short messages from your CEO, to videos of your CCO to videos of employees. Employees will always tune in when senior management speaks to them internally through a video. They want to hear from the President and a message of commitment to the culture values of doing business ethically and in compliance is always a message that will resonate with employees.

Also consider having employees in short discussions on how they may have overcome compliance challenges. Celebrate these events but do not forget their power to educate and inspire other employees. Such techniques can give your employees a peek behind the curtain, not to show the wizard has no clothes but because it makes your internal compliance function seem more authentic.

What are some of the venues you can utilize for these videos? Of course internal channels are appropriate to use. If you have an internal Twitter like function, you can post short videos that can be posted and reposted multiple times per day. If you have a tech savvy, media-friendly company you might consider an Instagram type approach, combining videos and pictures. Finally, do not forget the power of YouTube. It is one of the largest search engines behind Google and the prime location for video watching by the vast majority of folks these days.

Finally, never forget that one of the key factors listed in the Morgan Stanley Declination to Prosecute was 35 compliance reminders provided to their recalcitrant FCPA violating Managing Director Garth Peterson over seven years. These types of videos can certainly be used in a variety of ways, including as a legal defense to any FCPA investigation.

 

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2017

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