Promoting Your Ethics Hotline

Organizations with ethics hotlines are more likely to catch fraudulent behavior than are organizations without hotlines, which is one of the reasons they are a good investment.

Hotlines are effective only when they are used, so it is essential to keep awareness and use high. To that end, it’s important to offer an ongoing communications campaign that encourages employees and others to use the hotline and to demonstrate leadership commitment to the process. Organizations strive to accomplish these objectives through such formal mechanisms as adding language about hotline use to ethics policies, mass-distributing email messages from the CEO or other leaders, and offering training programs.

As important as such communications methods are, they can and should be supplemented by frequent use of other awareness activities designed to keep the hotline “top of mind” for potential users. The examples highlighted below, and many others, can be found on the awareness activities” page of The Compliance Toolbox wiki, at

Many companies use posters, cards, brochures, and badges effectively. For example, NYU’s Langone Medical Center provides “badge buddies”, to be inserted in employee badge holders, as a constant reminder of how to contact the hotline and for what reasons. Northrup Grumman distributes colorful three-fold brochures advertising its ethics hotline, and PepsiCo promotes its employee hotline with a well-designed poster that also contains contact information for all the major countries in which it does business.

Puzzles, games, and contests offered throughout the year can also be very effective in keeping hotline awareness high. Such efforts are often designed to be interactive, which engages employees directly in the learning process. For example, the University of Florida information security team runs video and poster contests. Winning entries are used throughout campus to promote information security. A similar strategy would work well for promoting an ethics hotline. Other organizations use crossword puzzles, quizzes, word scrambles, and other contests to promote ethics awareness broadly.

Awards and prizes such as pencils, key chains, refrigerator magnets and other small giveaways embossed with hotline and webline contact information serve a dual purpose. They are a way to thank employees for participating in ethics awareness activities and they can remind employees how to contact the hotline or webline when necessary.

Organizations that incorporate various communications methods and tools to boost employee awareness of ethics hotlines will very likely see sustained use of the hotline, which will in turn improve the likelihood of catching fraudulent behavior sooner rather than later.

Ethical Advocate provides hotline support and comprehensive compliance solutions for public and private companies, non-profits, educational, and government institutions. We’d be happy to answer your questions.