Introduction: We Are All Professional Creatives Now

I started my career as a journalist.

Well, technically, I started my career as a fiction writer who worked at Starbucks until it dawned on me that it might be a better strategy to at least get paid to write…but it’s fair to say that I moved to journalism quickly.

You know the first thing you learn as a journalist?

You need a hook.

After you convince your editor to run the piece, you need to give readers a reason to pay attention.

You need to be interesting. Or relevant, or provocative, or frightening, or fascinating, or angry, or inflammatory—but, no matter what, you need a new angle, fact pattern, or point of view that your audience cares about. And never, never be boring.

In journalism, you’re only as great as your last story and your next pitch.

Even when you’re great, your story is birdcage liner the next day. And when you’re not great? Consistently? When you don’t have anything to say?

You don’t get asked back.

As many writers say: Writing isn’t typing. Most of the work happens off of the page. I believe the same applies to creating great compliance training today.

In our digital world, compliance training can take many different forms—from online courses to printed resources to live sessions.

But whether you are creating a handout, a PowerPoint deck, a policy, an online course, a Code of Conduct, or any other piece of compliance-related communications, your work will be stronger—and your impact will be greater—if you can think and create in some of the ways that writers do.

Looking back, the mid-1990s was a low-content world.

Back then, grabbing people’s attention was mostly a problem for professional creatives—like authors, journalists, advertising executives, or movie producers. People whose fortunes rose or fell with TV ratings, box office draws, magazine subscriptions, and ad sales.

Today, in a world of Facebook and endless cat videos, grabbing people’s attention is a problem for anyone who has to get a message out—whether you’re an advertising copywriter or a compliance training manager.

So if you create or deliver content—in any format—and you want that content to matter, you have to operate like a professional creative (or find vendors or team members who can).

Start by assuming you have a completely uninterested audience and it’s your job to make them pay attention. You have to get your ideas straight and then work hard to craft your message, so it’s appealing, interesting, even visually well-designed.

Even when you’re able to make your training mandatory—maybe even especially then.

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