Mobile phone companies continue to raise the bar for the most creative compliance public service announcement (PSA). It continues to amaze me (read: annoy) how groups *outside* the training department regularly design more creative and engaging training than those in the training department.
Consider the most recent Sprint PSA reminding moviegoers to turn off their cell phones before the show:
Awesome! Talk about creative compliance training. Can you imagine something similar in your next compliance, ethics or Code of Conduct e-learning course? Look, this is nothing new for the film industry. AT&T has Martin Scorsese doing a similar PSA. Just as you’re getting into the clip, Whammo, you’re reminded to turn off your cell phone.
Presentation of Content Matters
Understand that this is not unique content that lends itself to creative interpretation. Rather, this is a straightforward compliance message “reminding” you to turn off your cell phones. What is different, is the presentation of the message. The compliance message could have been:
- Don’t launder money
- Don’t steal from the company
- Don’t commit insider trading
- Don’t <Anything!>
Using the same approach from Happy the Hedgehog, we could have created intros showing people from various departments in the company. Maybe each person introduces themselves and says what they do in the company.
Then, after six or seven people, the final person comes up, introduces himself and what he does: “I’m Bob. I’ve been here fifteen years, I work in Finance and I use the data from these reports to steal from the company.” And the final onscreen text could read, “It takes many people to make a company. It takes one to ruin it.”
Find a connect and use it. In a recent post by Karl Kapp, we’re reminded how “Southwest Airlines takes the boring compliance requirements of airline safety and makes it fun.” If you can make airline safety fun, you can make your e-learning content fun. One of my favorite quotes around content design comes from Michael Allen: “There’s no such thing as boring content, only boring treatment of content.” I heard that at one of his e-learning workshops over five years ago and I’ve used it with my teams ever since. With that, do you think the average e-learning compliance course would write a Cell Phone Awareness course?
Most elearning is predictable. Sure, you can upgrade your image subscription from Photos.com to Getty.com, add some Flash widgets, BigShot clips, and so on. Those are all ways to enhance the design. But when we talk about truly engaging content, we’re not only talking about the content, but also the way the content is presented.
For those who think video, multimedia and high-budget production development is required to present engaging content, consider this creative non-smoking PSA from the 1970s:
Can you believe that audio? This is obviously low production value by any standards. The Bic example could easily have been created with two static images animated as Gifs or Flash. The scenario is what matters most. Granted, the Bic example might be too risque for most corporate audiences, but the concept of two products interacting to deliver a compliance message is spot on. This would make a great opener to a module on appropriate and inappropriate smoking places.
Bookend Modules with “Happy” Intros
There’s no need to re-develop your existing courseware. Instead, consider enhancing what’s already developed by including engaging, “Happy” intros at the beginning of each module. You can get a lot of mileage from creative openers that set the stage for a chapter.
Seek Outside Perspectives
If you’re struggling with trying to create more engaging openers, consider reaching out to someone from marketing, sales, IT or any other department. Take them to lunch or coffee. Share your project with them. You’re not trying to offload the training on others, but rather you’re looking for a non-training perspective on communicating the message. One idea that worked well was to take the entire team to lunch and hold script read-throughs.
We’d read through each module and throw out crazy ideas for communicating each slide. This took a few hours but the end product was always better than what we started with. The advertising industry is a great place to look for inspiration. One site I’ve used for years is AdCritic. AdCritic hosts the best agency-created TV commercials. Most of these are commercials trying to sell products, but isn’t that what training is also trying to do? One of my favorite magazines is Communication Arts. This magazine celebrates the best in visual communication. Each year they offer the best in each area with an Interactive, Advertising, Illustration and Photography Annual. If you skip the subscription, at least pick up those four issues. It’s all about creativity, having fun and most of all, not taking ourselves too seriously.
Finding Creative Motivation
The cell companies obviously take pride in creating the most talked about, most engaging PSAs. In other words, the more they pull you in with their PSAs, the more you talk about it. The more you talk about it, the more you remember it. Folks, this is TRAINING we’re talking about. Why can’t this be your training? What would it look like for instructional designers to compete internally for the most creative course opener, module or course? Could creative, good-spirited competition among designers help bring fresh ideas to your courseware? The media industry realized they have to make commercials more engaging and unpredictable to connect with consumers. How much longer before e-learning begins connecting with its learners?