5 ways to breathe new life into your benefits communications

March 9, 2011

in health communication

let’s say you’ve discovered that employees aren’t aware of a new benefit. they don’t understand how the new consumer-driven health plan works. they’re not taking advantage of your 401(k) plan. you can create a brochure, newsletter article or blog post—or you could grab their attention using one of these methods.

viral email marketing campaign

an entertainment firm used irreverent humor to get employees up off the couch. they created a personalized flash video and embedded a sharing mechanism so employees could easily personalize and pass on the message to a friend. soon, employees were talking about not only the video but the benefit itself. this approach hooks employees and positions them as ambassadors of the program when they pass the information along.


standard life created a three-video series to explain how to read their retirement benefits statement. each video is two minutes or less and models itself after common craft’s very successful approach to making complex information simple. videos cut through the clutter. they can take a multi-step process and illustrate it in “real time” and they can make lingo suddenly understandable by connecting the image or process to the related words. i hope standard life covered explanation of benefits next, another impossible-to-decipher “communication” piece.


graphic treatment

ever consider giving your benefits information the graphic novel treatment? zappos created an employee handbook that’s part graphic novel. BC public service used a comic to communicate their social media guidelines. graphic novels require concise language, a real bonus when it comes to talking about benefits. the medium forces you to focus on only the must-have information and relay it in bite-sized, plain-english chunks.

learning maps

learning maps are great visual and experiential aids. through facilitated discussion, you can educate employees about massive, complex ideas, like health care reform or how their personal health decisions affect health care costs and your company’s bottom line.

interactive experience

jellyvision’s jazzed up your average insurance-provided decision-support tool. instead of plugging in your expected medical needs, “david” guides you through the process, with personalized attention, humor and a lot of knowledge. he’s the stepford wife of human resources representatives. another approach is to use interactive quizzes to debunk misconceptions about health plans, something i’ve created with one client. constructed differently, an interactive experience can help employees visualize “what if” scenarios, as in “what if i don’t save the difference between a high-deductible health plan and the PPO’s premium to cover that deductible?” not only will you help employees pick a good plan, but you’ll help them use it well, too.

the advantage of a video, comic, interactive tool or any other creative approach to communicating benefits information is that it can hold employees’ attention for longer—meaning more opportunities to instruct.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth March 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Fran, great post. Who says benefits can’t be fun? Phooey!

As for another example to add to the group: we’ve created a fun education program based on CSI called CSI: Real Food “Is your food killing you?” It uses video clips, interactive games etc to educate folks about how they are manipulated by the food industry to eat fast, processed foods. For example, at the first session, attendees are asked what they ate for lunch that day. That info is then written on their name tag because “you are what you eat.” Also doing a cool video clip intro (only about 2.5 – 3 minutes) that will also serve as a commercial for the workshop. Just rolling out this month…but so far have had great response to it.


fran March 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm

great examples — i’d love to see the CSI: real food.



Elizabeth March 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Will share with you when we get some results. I’ve submitted it for a presentation at the ISCEBS in October. Fingers crossed.


Robin Farr March 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Great post, Fran. Thanks for linking to me!


fran March 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

thanks, robin. your approach to the guidelines was really clever.



benjamin singer March 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Nice post and thoughtful recs. Days of just ‘getting stuff out there’ no longer apply. It’s not so much ‘what’ we’re communicating these days as the ‘how’ and the ‘why.’ You’ve got it covered as far as benefits education and communication!


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