What is the message of compliance inside of a corporation and how it is distributed? In a compliance program, the largest portion of your consumers/customers are your employees. Social media presents some excellent mechanisms to communicate the message of compliance going forward. Many of the applications that we use in our personal communications are free or available at very low cost. Why not take advantage of them and use those same communication tools in your internal compliance marketing efforts going forward?

Why should you do so? Start with the tech-savvy nature of the today’s workforce. It is not simply about having a younger workforce but a workforce whose primary tool for communication is social media. If your company is in the services business, it probably means your employee base is using technological tools to deliver business solutions. Finally, consider the data-driven nature of business today so using technological tools to deliver products and solutions is something your company most probably does now.

Louis Sapirman, Vice President and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer for Panasonic Corporation of North America, often talks about the integration of social media into compliance. When he was the Chief Compliance Officer at Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), Sapirman led a company-wide initiative to use social media tools to communicate compliance concepts. Not surprisingly, with most any successful corporate initiative, Sapirman said it began at the top of the organization, with the company’s then CEO, Robert Carrigan. Sapirman noted that the CEO saw the advantage of using social media internally and challenged his senior management team to take a new look at the manner in which their corporate functions were using social media. From there, Sapirman and his compliance team saw the advantages of using social media for facilitating a 360-degree approach to communications in compliance. Sapirman comprehended the possibility for use of social media for compliance with those external to the company as well.

Internally, D&B identified a tool called Chatter, which can be used in a similar manner to Twitter users who engage in a Tweet-up. D&B created an internal company brand in the compliance space, using the moniker #dotherightthing, which trends in the company’s Chatter environment. D&B also used this hashtag when facilitating a Chatter Jam, which was a real-time social media discussion. The compliance team led the event, which is held at various times during the day, so it can be accessed by D&B employees anywhere in the world.

Sapirman’s compliance team seeded Chatter Jam so that employees were aware of the expectations and to engage in discussions respectfully of others. When D&B began these sessions, employees were reminded that if they had specific or individual concerns, they were to bring them to the compliance team directly or through the hotline. However, as the program moved forward, the compliance team was not required to make this admonition, as the employees understood the ground rules and the seeding only related to the topics to start off each Chatter Jam.

One of the concerns lawyers tend to have about the use of social media is with general and specific topics coming up on social media and the ill it may cause the organization. While such untoward situations can arise, if you make clear the ground rules about such discussions, these types of issues do not usually arise. That was certainly been the D&B experience.

Each employee used their own names during these Chatter Jams so there is employee accountability and transparency as well. Sapirman said they further defined each communication through a hashtag so that it cannot only immediately be defined but also searched in the archives going forward. This branding also enhances the process going forward. Also think Document Document Document.

Sapirman points to specific compliance initiatives that arose during or from these Chatter Jams to emphasize their utility. Sapirman emphasized that the events allowed employees the opportunity to express their opinions about the compliance function and what compliance meant to them in their organization. One of these discussions was around the company’s Code of Conduct. He said that employees wanted to see the words “Do the Right Thing” as the name of the Code of Conduct.

This initiative in use of social media extended to communications with third parties. Sapirman said that the company allowed some of them access to its internal Chatter tools to facilitate direct communications. Further, these external contractors could connect with the company through Twitter. He said that D&B consistently communicated to the greater body of customers about the organization’s compliance initiatives and compliance reminders on what the compliance function was doing. Sapirman is firmly in the camp that social media is an important communications tool to make sure that the compliance team are getting their compliance messages out there.

Sapirman also described using Chatter in a manner similar to the Facebook live function. He delivered short video vignettes about compliance to employees. The compliance function or the employee base can develop these for dissemination.

Another approach was suggested by the company Hootsuite and its social media tool Periscope. Hootsuite did a campaign called “Follow the Sun” using Periscope. They asked their employees to showcase what they called #HootsuiteLife. They gave access to different people in every office around the globe. Throughout the day, it would “Follow the Sun,” and people in different offices would log into the Hootsuite account and walk around and show off their culture, interviewing their friends, etc. They talk about the importance of culture and now they are proving it. The number of inbound applications drastically increased after people got that sneak peek into their company. Think how powerful such a presentation could be for your organization if the focus was on compliance.

Both of these initiatives drive home three key insights. The first is how compliance, like society, is evolving, in many ways ever faster. As more millennials move into the workforce, the more your employee base will have used social media all their lives. Once upon a time, email was a revelatory innovation. Now if you are not communicating, you are falling behind the 8-ball. Employees expect their employers to act like and treat them as if this is the present day, not 1994 or even 2014.

The second is that these tools can go a long way towards enhancing your compliance program going forward. Recall the declination to prosecute that Morgan Stanley received from the DOJ, back in 2012, when one of its Managing Directors had engaged in FCPA violations. One of the reasons cited by the DOJ was 35 email compliance reminders sent over 7 years, which served to bolster the annual FCPA training to the recalcitrant Managing Director. You can use your archived social media communications as evidence that you have continually communicated your company’s expectations around compliance. It is equally important that these expectations are documented

Finally, never forget the social part of social media. Social media is a more holistic, multiple-sided communication. Not only are you setting out expectations but also these tools allow you to receive back communications from your employees. The D&B experience around the name change for its Code of Conduct is but one example. You can also see that if you have several concerns expressed it could alert you earlier to begin some detection and move towards prevention in your compliance program.

Three key takeaways:

  1. Incorporation of social media into your compliance communications can pay big dividends.
  2. Focus on the ‘social’ part of social media.
  3. Use internal corporate social media to facilitate a 360-degree conversation.