Many professionals say they “wear many hats,” but it’s especially true for compliance professionals. Compliance professionals, especially, are often called upon to be communicators and marketers, promoting  their department, compliance functions, and compliance expectations.      

These communications expectations can be lofty and difficult to fold into the already busy work of an often-understaffed department. But compliance professionals also know that marketing-style communication tactics can help achieve compliance goals. To create lasting behavior change, employees need a variety of reminders that reach them at different places in the rhythm of their work. Communications tools are great resources for this.

Let’s Get Definitive

Just what are we talking about? Communications tools is a broad term that refers to advertising-style tactics that relay a message.

Most compliance departments are already excellent communicators. Likely, your department is already executing some communications tools, even if you haven’t used the term or aren’t purposely executing a strategy. That poster that gives information about the Speak Up Hotline? That’s a communications tool. The quarterly email that updates employees about compliance regulations? Yep, tool. The video message (that you wrote the script for) from the CEO that appears at the beginning of the annual Code of Conduct training? Also, a communications tool.

But here’s where compliance can learn from advertising: You can leverage those activities and put a little strategic thinking behind your tactics to give them more lift.

Back to Basics

The one place many communications plans fail is at the beginning: their goals are too vague, too unfocused, and too big.

Your challenge here is to stay focused. What does that mean? Ask yourself – and your compliance colleagues – one question: What’s the one thing we want people in our organization to know about compliance?

Take a moment to sit with that question. Ask your internal partners and your friends in the organization outside your department. What are their perceptions of compliance? What do they want to know about compliance?Gather all the responses and see what rises to the top.

Remember, though, it’s just one thing. Don’t gloss over this – it’s much easier said than done. Many departments will develop lengthy lists of what they need the company to know. That’s great – but decide on just one. And keep the rest of those ideas handy for future use.

Find one specific thing you want people to know. Often, it’s tied to a risk area or pain point. Maybe it’s where to find your organization’s Code of Conduct. Perhaps it’s to use the Speak Up Hotline and report concerns. Or maybe you’ve had some turnover, so you want people in your organization to know who you are. The main idea here is to focus on one goal to help focus your communications. You can’t do everything at once.

Make It Yours

Every company is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy that works for every company every time. Customization has an inherent ROI. Plan to customize any or all materials you buy, create, or acquire.

Why is that? Authenticity matters, and often people can tell the difference. Your audience comes from a culture specific to your organization. And an organization’s culture is often intangible: It’s in the way you solve problems, it’s in the management structure, and, of course, it’s in the way that you communicate with each other. What works in one organization may not work in another.

An easy example is simply visuals. Yes, being brand compliant is important, with appropriate use of colors, logo placement, and other considerations. But beyond that, what about the images? When customizing materials, we ask clients about the visual culture. What do people wear? How conservative or laid back is your expected attire? Do only certain levels of management dress a certain way? Or is everyone casual? Or does it depend on the department? What about remote or hybrid work environments?

Keep Your Focus

The same could be said for these communications tips. You probably don’t have the time or resources to execute everything on that goal list. You also can’t implement every tip or idea we’ve given here.

Lean into your strengths, take what you need, and leave the rest. You’re likely already very good at communicating, as it is inherent in compliance tasks. Compliance professionals have valuable internal partnerships, multi-task exceptionally well, and know a lot about many departments and divisions.

In other words, you wear many hats very well.