A few weeks ago, we were meeting with a client, and he made it very clear that “Hotline” is a four-letter word in his book.  He preferred EthicsLine for his company’s anonymous reporting program.  I wasn’t surprised by his aversion to the word Hotline. Over the years I’ve never used the same name twice when branding my company’s ethics and compliance reporting programs.   And I’ve seen hundreds of other companies march to their own naming drumbeat as well.  

Just like with naming a company the name that is selected for the reporting line should be done with purpose and thought. If you do not know your audience and what will resonate with them, then you could miss an important opportunity to connect with them.  Here are some tips from the world of marketing that I’ve applied to the wonderful world of ethics and compliance.

  1. Know your audience – ID from the beginning who the hotline helps and serves. Is it only going to be communicated to employees?  Or, are you also going to make it available to suppliers, customers and/or the general public?  Also, be mindful of in what countries your audiences are located and the language they speak.  Depending on the mix of cultures in your company, words like Whistleblower, Ethics, or Tipline may not resonate with your audience.  Or worse, cause them to think negatively about the anonymous reporting channel merely because of its name.

  2. Embrace the KISS rule – You want to avoid lengthy or hard-to-spell names.  Make it easy for your employees to remember and find your online web reporting page.  I prefer the short, and to the point names, such as IntegrityLine, Our Hotline or GuideLine versus longer names like Code of Business Conduct Integrity Helpline.   But, if the longer name is a must for your company, then I’d recommend using an acronym to make it easier to say.

  3. Good cultural fit – Select a name that is going to fit your organization's corporate culture.  If there are words that are already used in your company and have a positive vibe around them, then find a way to play off it.  For example, I’ve seen universities use the name of their school mascot, Eagles Ethicsline, in conjunction with the name.

  4. Get feedback – Don’t make your decision in a vacuum, reach out to your marketing team and other trusted colleagues for advice.  Also, don’t forget to get feedback from your target audience.   I’ve found that circulating 5 or so options around for feedback is an effective technique for getting buy-in.   

Keep these tips for naming your company’s anonymous compliance reporting program; you’ll be sure to create a name that resonates with the audience... And if you need a little help coming up with some ideas here are some of the more popular names I’ve seen over the years.

  • AlertLine

  • ConcernLINE

  • OpenTalk

  • Awareline

  • Ethics Action Line

  • Report It! Hotline

  • Business Ethics Line

  • EthicsOnline

  • See & Say Hotline

  • CaresLine

  • Integrity Line

  • Speak-UP! Hotline

  • Code of Conduct Line

  • Let Us Know

  • Your Voice

  • Compliance Helpdesk

  • Open and Honest

  • Whistleblower Hotlines

Stephanie Jenkins is the Chief Compliance Officer of ETHIX360.  At ETHIX360, our goal is simple, to provide an affordable, flexible and comprehensive answer to employee communication and case management on issues related to corporate ethics, code of conduct, fraud, bribery, environmental, health & safety, and workplace violence.  To learn more about ETHIX360, please visit ethix360.com, or follow us on twitter @ethix360 and LinkedIn.