We are back with fan favorite Sherlock Holmes week. In this week’s blog posts, I will focus on the first five stories from The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, mining each story for themes and lessons related to the compliance professional, leadership and business ethics. In today’s offering, I consider The Adventure of the Marazin Stone and how it informs storytelling in compliance.
Watson arrives at 221B Baker Street where the page boy Billy shows him a wax effigy of Holmes placed near a curtained window in the sitting room. The effigy produces a shadow on the curtain that, when viewed from outside, is the unmistakable profile of Sherlock Holmes. Using this visual trick, Holmes aims to give a perfect target to a would-be murderer with a rifle. Holmes names his murderer as Count Sylvius, the diamond thief he has been following in disguise. He gives the criminal’s address to Watson, then sends the doctor out the back for the police. As the Count arrives, Holmes has Billy invite him inside, then takes him by surprise when he attempts an assault on the effigy. Holmes then offers the Count and his helper, boxer Sam Merton, freedom if they give up the jewel, or jail if not.
He invites them to discuss the deal while he plays violin in the next room. When the Count decides to double-cross Holmes and takes the stone from his secret pocket to show Sam in window light, the detective springs from the chair in place of his replica and grabs the £100K jewel. His bedroom has a gramophone and secret passage to behind the curtain.
After the police take away the villains, Lord Cantlemere sweeps in. Unlike the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, he did not want Holmes involved in the matter. When tricked into insisting on arrest for whoever is found possessing the diamond, he finds the jewel in his pocket – where Holmes has placed it – and apologizes.
Most interestingly, The Adventure of the Mazarin Stoneis the only other Sherlock Holmes adventure written from a third-person perspective. Holmes has been tasked with locating a crown diamond and has zeroed in on the criminal responsible for stealing it. Unable to deduce exactly where it has been hidden, Holmes invites the culprit himself to Baker Street, for a dangerous meeting in which he intends to coax out the information to complete the case.
This particular adventure is most interesting because it is one of only two stories in the canon written in the third person. Holmes biographer Watson has little more than a cameo in the tale. Helmrich in his blog post The Play’s Afoot, wrote that it was this is the story was in fact not originally conceived of as a short story. Instead, this is an adaptation of a stage play called “The Crown Diamond.”
Helmrich went on to note that this explained the oddness of Holmes moving through a heretofore unknown passage in his own residence, “There’s an elaborate ruse involving “off-stage sound effects” and a secret passage. That Holmes would have built such a passage in his house is bizarre to contemplate, but it certainly would have made for a tricky finale to a night at the theater. Indeed, much of Holmes’ behavior in this tale seems even more dramatic than usual — though very much in the spirit of a staged melodrama.”
I want to use this Holmes’ adventure to consider the use of storytelling in compliance and reference the article “The Power of Consumer Stories in Digital Marketing”. In it, 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?
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.
The authors proposed four steps which they advised a company to engage in to implement such a strategy, which 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. 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 after the Volkswagen emissions-testing scandal became public. The video featured Scott Prochazka, CenterPoint Energy President and Chief Executive Officer who 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.
3.Embed stories in your social media mix. 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.
4.Integrate paid media strategies with voluntary sharing of stories on 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.
Join us tomorrow as we continue our week of stories from The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by looking at the The Adventure of the Three Gables and institutional justice.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2019