We all know there is power in the words that we say. A simple “thank you,” heartfelt and genuine, can make our day. And a frustrating, abrupt “you’ve disappointed me” can ruin it.

Compliance professionals know the power of language. Our policies are detailed and specific, and we know the pain of vague directives or unclear mandates. The words we choose are important. And this is especially true when we’re communicating to our organizations. This goes beyond picking the right headline or finding that quippy catchphrase – although that’s also important. Choosing our words sets the tone for our communications. Taking time to find the right words can sometimes make a big difference.

It’s Not About You

Hard to hear, right? But it’s true. It’s not about you. It’s all about them, your audience: the employees, colleagues, executives, and other learners in your organization. The best communications campaigns use what matters most to their audience to their advantage.

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re sending communications to your organization focusing on increasing Speak Up Hotline reports. Ask yourself, your colleagues, and your partners: Why aren’t people using the Speak Up Hotline? What’s the barrier? Are they unsure what happens after they report? Maybe they fear retaliation? Or perhaps they don’t know how to report anonymously?

Doing a little more profound discovery, even just an hour or two, will help focus your goal further. These questions will help craft and refine the language that you use in those emails, poster headlines, and other communications tools.

A Little Heart and Soul

The words you use need to fit your goal but also resonate with your audience. A little emotion can go a long way – it helps connect your message to your audience. Get empathetic and put a little heart and soul into your messaging to find the feeling behind the what.

For example, to increase Speak Up Hotline reports, consider a supportive approach: “We’ve got your back,” “We’re listening, ” or “Your voice matters.” To boost your diversity, equality, and inclusion efforts, try messages like “You belong here” or “Our workplace is safe for you.” If you’re re-introducing the members of your department to the organization, consider a headline of “We’re here to help.”

The same goes for your call-to-action messages. If you want people to engage further, pick a motivating phrase and active words to keep your content fresh. This is a subtle change, but advertisers know it can make a difference. For example, instead of the usual “Sign Up Here” or “Click here,” Maybe try: “Let’s go!” or “I am ready!” or “Let’s do this!” or “Here we go!” There’s excitement and action laced underneath those phrases.

Be Positive

Since we’re looking at language, it’s good to remind people that compliance supports the organization in many ways. Compliance policies can be a list of don’t activities, but we can turn that around. Don’t always don’t; also do. Try a positive spin. Dos are active and engaging, stir interest, and can even be unexpected.

For example, let’s say your communications this quarter highlight the gifts and entertainment policies. In your reminder email, perhaps answer What CAN your sales team give as gifts? How CAN your sales team be hospitable to clients? If you’re talking about appropriate social media interactions, How CAN employees engage with your organization on social media?

The Don’ts will always be there – and need to be. But, incorporating positive, active messages in your compliance communication materials can do wonders.