Celanese is not a static company. The chemical corporation creates chemistry solutions and develops chemicals, technologies, and designs that are applied to a multitude of industries. An innovative company requires an innovative legal team. When Gjon Nivica, Jr., joined Celanese in 2009, he introduced the idea of “innovation by analogy.” The strategy was an attempt to take the best thinking on service delivery from extremely competitive and contemporary spaces outside of the law and bring that thinking into the legal department to better serve internal clients.
As senior vice president and general counsel of Celanese, Nivica says the legal team has to be proactive rather than reactive. That attitude will not work, though, if employees are not aware of preventative measures. Nivica’s team sought out methods to educate Celanese staff. “It was important to deliver the tools of preventive law with a digital interface that was user-friendly, mobile, and engaging,” he says. Attempts to create this interface included a website styled like WebMD, a code of conduct that resembled marketing materials, and preventive legal training that aimed to deliver content as an advertisement would—heavy on visuals and light on words.
Off the Cuff with Gjon Nivica
What’s your definition of success?
Giving completely of yourself to noble relationships and to a body of worthwhile work.
Which words define you?
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
To find paths that are both worthy of yourself and your talents, and to truly pursue them with everything you’ve got.
What is your motto?
“Run with endurance the race that is set before you.” [Hebrews 12:1]
To improve on these early attempts, Nivica looked to other formats not normally associated with the legal practice: push marketing content and viral videos. From the former, Nivica realized the importance of recognizing customer needs and delivering content in context and in short bursts. That is, not making the audience show up for general training based on a tight schedule set by the legal department.
There are a number of reasons why push content works. Attention spans are short, and convenience is increasingly in demand for an on-the-go work force. Nivica wanted legal to keep this in mind, as well, but he went beyond the superficial and dug into which marketing strategies work and why. The most successful marketing companies, Nivica points out, have discovered comprehensive algorithms to determine which products a customer might soon purchase based on recent expenditures and other factors. Nivica deconstructed the characteristics that he believed led to a video going viral and shared these factors with his legal team. That was the framework on which his team created videos regarding preventive law for Celanese. Nivica’s team worked with Celanese’s public relations and sales groups to assist in creating push content and for access to the company calendar of significant business events, such as trade shows and industry conferences. “Each of those events suggest specific, short bursts of preventive law material for that particular context,” says Nivica.
The next step was to deliver the content. Recently, Nivica’s legal team—led by associate general counsel Adam Shulman, compliance officer Ashley Duffie, and projects manager Diane Tanner—piloted its first “home-grown” independent film about antitrust compliance. The two-minute feature “was innovated wholly in-house by creative members of our company,” Nivica says. Legal content was made memorable and significant through its video presentation. “While the short feature is not likely getting into Sundance [Film Festival], the team did a terrific job as screenwriters and directors,” Nivica notes. “I was given executive producer credit on the mock movie billboard that now populates our intranet website, which means I financed it, but they did all the real work.”
Nivica was struck by the overwhelmingly positive response he received to the video, even outside of the legal realm. It was successful not only for pushing the message of antitrust laws, but for viral nature—at least, internally. This became evident when Nivica learned employees were sharing the video among themselves, without prompting. “How often does that happen, where a business person enthusiastically forwards legal training to a colleague?” Nivica asks. “I suspect that kind of training is much more likely going to be remembered and taken to heart.”
For Nivica and the rest of the Celanese legal team, the antitrust video was both a success and a lesson. “We don’t anticipate delivering all our content this way, but for the most important aspects of preventive law, it is a terrific model that we’d like to develop further.”