If there is one truism from the practices of law which translates to the practice of compliance it is that you are only limited by your own imagination. This holds true in the 360-degree realm of communication in compliance, as communications obviously comes in many forms. Many compliance practitioners will well remember the 2012 Morgan Stanley declination. In this first declination made public, the Justice Department recognized Morgan Stanley for emailing out 35 compliance reminders to Garth Peterson over seven years. Think about the strength of 360-degrees of communications in the context of compliance reminders using movies. Now imagine the power of these short ethics and compliance video training clips going out over the same period of time and the effect it would have both on your employees and the regulators.

Marc Havener is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Resonate Pictures, and Bryan Belknap, is the Creative Director. They jointly created a series of video shorts for a consulting company on compliance. Rather than the traditional legal approach of telling employees what the corporate policy about compliance, they wanted to tell a story about compliance through the art of movie based storytelling and that wove messaging into characters to tell a story.

They created a video training series using employees telling real stories which resonated with the workforce. Once these videos started getting released the employees who starred in the videos, became minor celebrities within the company. More importantly the episodes started becoming so popular that employees figured out how to view them in the system before the training videos were officially released. Employees would start watching these over the weekend before they were officially released internally because they wanted to know what was going to happen.

From this beginning these two gents built Resonate Pictures a supplier of movie clip based ethics and training videos which are widely popular. They recently released an eBook, entitled “How to Teach Ethics and Compliance with Hollywood Movie Clips”, in which they explain how and why ethics and compliance training using movie clips to get the concepts across can be a powerful training tool in the toolkit of the compliance practitioner. The eBook notes, “Movie clips will turn your surly team – the one that has reverted into eye-rolling teenagers when forced to sit through a lecture — into alert, emotionally and intellectually engaged employees. Better yet, they’ll enjoy learning about ethics and compliance!” They list five reasons that this form of communication works and I believe creates another mechanism for you to think about 360-degrees of communication for your compliance program.

Create unforgettable teachable moments. Instead of having lawyers drone on, giving forgettable instructions on ethics, culture and honesty; they will clearly enjoy a scene of a star like Leonardo DiCaprio bluffing his way through his job as a medical doctor.

Place ethics and compliance training in tangible situations.Some people just do not understand concepts until they see them in action. For some employees, a clear directive like, “Don’t take bribes” might raise other questions such as “What if it’s non-monetary compensation? Or a gift? What if there’s no expectation of quid pro quo?”

Create a common language among employees. This means a cultural language across your employee base. By showing your employees the same movie clips, they will begin to create a shared language, a shorthand for ethical behavior that references the clips they’ve seen, where they hum the “Batman” theme when someone’s invading privacy or warn someone not to “pull a Clooney” with their expense reports. 

Provide a vicarious learning experience. This simply means people can learn by watching someone else and it is crucial because it means people can learn to avoid the bad/incorrect behavior they witness by another person and make the ethical move when they personally face a similar real life choice.

Create mental markers. Whatever ethics and compliance lesson you communicate with a movie clip it will live on beyond your classroom. If your employees ever see that clip again, your compliance lesson will pop back into their minds, reinforcing your point. Sprinkling in movie clips helps move your training outside the classroom and into employees’ everyday lives; so much so that eventually, they won’t be able to watch Television without spotting all the ethics and compliance moments in their favorite shows.

I have urged compliance practitioners to bring more storytelling into their compliance messaging. If you put the employee in the shoes of the person they’re watching, they will remember it, because will see how it applies to their lives. Havener noted the training experience will last “exponentially longer than if you just go over a written policy or show a PowerPoint”. He called it “expanding your classroom”. The next time they see George Clooney they’re going to remember the training, the next time they watch that movie that you showed a clip from they’re going to be reminded of the training and so it becomes a great drift method of training.”

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Storytelling is another form of 360-degrees of communication.
  2. Movie clips in compliance training can provide useful touchstones that employees can relate to for compliance lessons.
  3. The Morgan Stanley declination gave credit for annual compliance reminders.


This month’s podcast series is sponsored by Dun & Bradstreet.  Dun & Bradstreet’s compliance solutions provide comprehensive due diligence reporting and analysis to reduce your risk of working with fraudulent companies by accessing a company’s beneficial ownership, reputation risk and more.  For more information, go to dnb.com/compliance.