What Creating a Viral (Compliance) Video Taught Us About Culture Change


Kirsten Liston, CCEP
Founder and Principal

Quick quiz: How has your company and compliance program responded to #metoo?

Have you:

  1. Written, filmed, and deployed a leadership message, one that acknowledges the public conversation about harassment and clearly outlines the company’s anti-harassment position?
  2. Created an anti-harassment campaign to roll out in 2018, one that includes a couple of touchpoints so that your employees can see this isn’t a “one and done” but something that really matters for your culture to get right?
  3. Realized that the tone around harassment has fundamentally changed and recognized that you need to create materials to speak to it….but you’re still working out what exactly that might look like for your organization?

If you answered C, you’re not alone.

Over here at Rethink Compliance, we took some time in December and January to think hard about how to address harassment messaging in a post-#metoo world.

As part of that effort, we came up with some ideas for an anti-harassment toolkit and then sat down with about ten global companies to talk about how they were thinking about harassment today.

The responses varied, but most were firmly in the “thinking hard about it” bucket.

And it makes sense. Compliance as an industry has been grappling with the shift away from “defensibility” and towards “effectiveness and cultural change.”

In this new environment, it’s no longer enough to be able to prove that you told someone something. Instead, you need to be able to show that telling them mattered, that it had an impact beyond the 20 minutes it took to get through the training.

In our view, harassment messaging takes that culture challenge one step further. It can’t just be about distributing information, because harassment isn’t an information problem – it’s a people problem, a culture problem.

But people problems are harder to solve than information problems. You can’t just buy a course off the shelf and expect it to speak deeply or authentically to the people in your organization – especially on such a tricky and personal subject.

Which brings us to our video.

As a way of changing our perspective and challenging our assumptions, we decided to team up with someone who sits completely outside of the compliance world. Our goal was to speak to the traditional compliance audience in a completely different way.

Gary Turk is a TV writer and standup comedian who, on a lark, decided to write and film a spoken-word poem called “Look Up” about connecting with people in a digital age.

He put it up on an empty YouTube page and went on vacation – and when he finally reconnected, he learned his video had gone viral.

Since then, he’s made videos about voting and making smart financial decisions.

And last month, we released our own collaboration with Gary, an anti-harassment message aimed at bystanders, called Don’t Stand By.

As of today, the video has more than 7800 views on YouTube – proving out our hypothesis that people will voluntarily seek out compliance content if it’s interesting, well made, and created with their goals, interests, hopes, or fears in mind.

And the comments we received showed that viewers were really connecting with the material:

Anonymous employee: “I learned more in 3 minutes watching this video than I had in one hour of training at my company.”

Human Resources Director, “I was just reviewing another proposal from a vendor – and feeling like I was in the 80s. And I thought to myself: ‘But we’re is a modern company!’ Your video was just fantastic.”

What we found especially fascinating was to see how Gary approached the creative process. He didn’t start by asking us what message we wanted to communicate.

Instead, he asked for our point of view on the topic and lots of reference materials, so he could immerse himself in the issue and then step back and ask himself which points resonated.

As he explained, his ultimate goal in a video like this is to get people to “think, feel, and follow along.” So he looks for what matters in the material, which themes ordinary people are likely to be moved by.

As an industry, we’ve been thinking about content in terms of defensibility for so long that we don’t always notice the assumptions we’ve built into the process.

For instance:

  • We build in page times and required links…..because we assume we’re talking to reluctant learners who have to be forced to wade through all the content we’re pushing at them.
  • We write paragraphs that are too long, inside of courses that are too long…..because we create content by thinking about what we want to tell our audience, not what our audience finds helpful or wants to know.
  • We make training mandatory, and use punitive measures like tying completions to bonuses …..because it never occurs to us that we could create something relevant and engaging that people might actually want to seek out.

I’m not saying we should throw out training completion metrics, or make all training optional.

But what would happen if your training goal was to get employees to ‘think, feel and follow along’?

How would that change your messaging?

Since 2000, Kirsten has been crafting creative, industry-leading compliance solutions for the world’s great companies. She is passionate about helping to create programs that genuinely reach employees and change cultures.


  1. We’ve neither “#metoo?” nor “anti harassment campaign”@ our DHRUVA COLLEGE of MAGEMENT.But we follow 5 cardinal principles-Discipline,Diligence,Dignity,Dhyana,Dharma in letter & spirit.
    To cite an example;One student was rusticated for pushing his female classmate-no QUESTIONS askled!

  2. This is an excellent article. How do I obtain more information about the Don’t Stand By video?

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