Five Ways to Breathe Life Into Your Benefits Communications

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 e-mail 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 (see video below) 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.

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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.

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s Free-Range Communication blog.