As you might suppose I read quite a bit. One of the pleasures I receive each month is when the copy of the MIT Sloan Management Review arrives. I also find the articles highly topical and present ways to consider new compliance strategies and technologies, together with insights on leadership. The 2017 Summer edition arrived on Friday so I am going to dedicate this week to considering an article the issue, each day this week, as it relates to the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), compliance practitioner, compliance profession or a corporate compliance practice. Today I consider an article by Renée Richardson Gosline, Jeffery Lee and Glenn Urban, entitled “The Power of Consumer Stories in Digital Marketing”.

As I often note the customer for a CCO, compliance practitioner, or a corporate compliance practice is your employee. So why not use them to help you market the message of compliance. I can point to one current successful example of using the employee base and that is Louis Sapirman at Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. (D&B), who regularly connects with employees through in-company tweet-ups and other innovative techniques to tell stories around compliance identified using the internal hashtag #DoTheRightThing.

The authors consider a broader use and begin with the basic premise that “When consumers prepare to make purchase decisions, stories can deliver important information and shape the decision and the overall brand experience. With the advent of consumer-to-consumer social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, stories can be powerful tools for shaping cognitive processing, recall, brand image, and choice.” The authors found a statistically significant increase of product purchases, “when consumer-based storytelling was employed.” So why not use those same techniques around internal marketing of your compliance function and training on your compliance program?

From their research which led to the article the authors found that customers responded to a story about a brand, when certain factors were present. These included trust in the brand; that consumers saw themselves in the stories and there was a “self-connection” to the brand. Every corporate compliance program should have the employees trust and they should feel connected to the notion of doing business ethically and in compliance, if not the compliance function should fold up the tent and go home. The power of telling stories that resonate with the experiences of employees in the real world is also a well-known and used standard in compliance training. Here you can think of the RESIST training scenarios.

The authors proposed four steps which they advised a company to engage in to implement such a strategy. I found it quite use for the CCO or compliance practitioner to think through when considering this approach. I have adapted the authors’ consumer approach for the compliance practitioner and their employee base.

1.Work with consumers to generate believable and compelling stories. The authors found that by examining “comments on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites, you should be able to find leads to consumer stories about your brand that you can follow up on. It’s a little like curating an art show: You need to find the best examples and work with storytellers to deliver the right message.”

For the CCO or compliance profession you should mine your data sources to find stories. Even if you are not as tech savvy as the compliance team at D&B, there should be a wealth of other compliance information and data available to you. You can consider hotline reports, remembering that not all hotline reports are of illegal, unethical or fraudulent conduct. It may only be the perception of unfairness or favoritism. Dispelling such faulty acuities can go a long way towards directly improving employee morale. This can be a powerful story and useful to utilize when marketing your hotline.

2.Convert stories into high-quality presentations. A great example here is a video CenterPoint Energy released in 2015 after the Volkswagen (VW) emissions-testing scandal became 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?””, that 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.

3.Embed stories in your social media mix. The authors related, “Posting videos of customer stories on your brand website means they will be perceived as coauthored by the consumer and the brand. Use true consumer stories and present them through your branded social media channels to maximize impact.” Another way to consider this concept 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 always tune in when senior management speaks to them internally through a video. Employees 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. Finally, employees want to hear stories from and about their co-workers who faced compliance challenges and #DoTheRightThing.

4.Integrate paid media strategies with voluntary sharing of stories on social media. Here the authors focus on the overlap and intersection of professional media strategies with “story-based consumer content generated for social media.” For the compliance practitioner, this translates into an opportunity around training. You can use traditional methods of compliance training, interspersed with videos and other social media uses of your employee base with real world examples of how compliance not only helped them do business ethically and in compliance but also how it made your organization more efficient together with being more profitable.

The authors conclude by noting, “Throughout history, storytelling has been an integral way to convey attitudes and values, and it will remain a key source of information and influence in the digital world. As new technologies such as virtual reality evolve and improve, brands can expect to continue to have new opportunities to use consumer storytelling in their communication strategy.” You should incorporate these concepts and employee-told stories into your compliance message as well.


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

© Thomas R. Fox, 2017