Getting the Most from Benefits Communication: Start Now

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Key Considerations for Creating a Strategic Benefits Communication Plan

Jennifer Benz, founder and chief strategist of Benz Communications (http://www.benzcommunications.com), reminds employers that now is the time to start thinking about benefits communication. Benz Communications is a HR communications strategy boutique.

"The key to successful benefits communication is knowing what you want to accomplish and having a plan to get you there. Too often communication 'planning' happens during annual health plan and vendor renewals, and winds up being a fire drill, rather than the thoughtful and intentional process it should be," said Jen. "Now, more than ever, employees need reassurance that their employer is looking out for their best interest. Benefits communication is a simple and effective way to do that -- even when you don't have a lot to invest," Jen continued.

"Do yourself -- and your employees -- a favor by giving benefits communication the attention it deserves early in the year," she concluded. And be sure to include the following in your communication plan:

Key Objectives
Benefits can make up as much as 20% or more of all compensation spending. To get the most from your communication, understand your strategic objectives for that investment. What is the business outcome, or end result, you seek? Do you want to change the way your employees use their benefits? Or, do you want to impact turnover or productivity? Start with the tangible results you want to accomplish (not just what you want to say to your employees).

Audiences
The more you know about your audience, the better able you are to meet their needs with your communication. Income, culture, work environment, family situations, and health conditions have a big impact on decision-making and motivations (or lack thereof). Ask: Who are your main audiences? What are they interested in and what do they care about? What do you want them to think, feel, and do?

Key Messages
Think about what resonates with your audiences and what will drive them to action. You can't say everything, so focus on the two or three messages most likely to create action. Document those key messages so you know what -- and how -- you will make communication consistent and compelling. You'll want to speak to your audience's personal interests and needs, as that is always more effective than talking about "the company" or the abstract "big picture."

Communication Vehicles
After you understand what you're trying to accomplish, whom you're speaking to, and what your main message is, think about tactics. Identify all the available ways to reach your audience and prioritize which are most effective. Print, online? Social media? In-person meetings? Remember that you need to get information to families, who make up 60 to 70 percent of benefits costs, and are often making the decisions for the whole family.

Also, keep in mind that social media is not a strategy in and of itself. For the new blog, social networking, and collaboration platforms to be effective, they need to be part of an overarching strategy and should be treated as individual vehicles within a comprehensive communication strategy, not a single solution.

Timeline
Once you know what you're saying, to whom, and how, simply document your timeline for the year. What are the key events, including open enrollment? When will each communication go out? Having a simple visual timeline is the best way to keep you on track for a successful year.

Measurable Results and Feedback
Setting measurable targets is the only way to know your communication strategy is working. Look at specific ways you can use data to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Whether you want to increase the use of online tools, encourage more families to get preventive screenings, or move employees into more cost-effective plans, you need to identify the specific behaviors and decisions that will get you there. Then, you can be concrete and specific about what you communicate and know whether it's working.

About Benz Communications
Benz Communications is a HR communications strategy boutique creating integrated employee benefits campaigns for employers committed to nurturing high-performing and satisfied employees. Benz Communications' clients include Fortune 500 companies, Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, and small- to mid-size companies. Additional information about Benz Communications may be found at http://www.benzcommunications.com.

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Jennifer Benz

Robin Schoen
Robin Schoen Public Relations
215-504-2122
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