Let Alex guide you to a better health plan
“Strategic communications” is one of those terms folks toss around without really thinking about what it actually means. Of course we all want to believe we have such a strategy in place.
“Let’s see, we’re on Twitter, that intern set up our Facebook page, I think we’ve got a corporate LinkedIn page, and someone was looking into Instagram…” Does any of that sound familiar?
That is a collection of social media accounts, but NOT a strategy. To create a true communications strategy, you have to know who you are communicating with, and whether they are getting the message.
Deciphering your message
One area I am immersed in every fall is the open enrollment period for corporate health insurance plans. I write quite a lot about open enrollment, and every year I hear the same story: “We get everyone together in a conference room where the HR person explains the plan. We send everyone to the web address where they can choose their plan. And then they sign up for the same one they had the prior year.”
This result is because companies don’t have strategic communications plans for guiding their employees to make different, or even better, decisions for themselves during the open enrollment period.
Reaching your audience where they are
I attended a conference last summer hosted by benefits consulting firm PlanSource. Their CEO, Dayne Williams, addressed this very topic. To further assist employees in making better health plan decisions, PlanSource “recruited” Alex, a bit of lively artificial intelligence designed to enliven enrollment and engage employees by guiding them through the process.
PlanSource and others are partnering with Jellyvision, an HR services vendor that provides an avatar named Alex. This bit of AI helps employees navigate the benefits enrollment process in a fun and engaging way that leads to better plan choices.
Alex’s advice to employees navigating the enrollment process is “based in behavioral science, so that [an employee] can make better benefits decisions quickly,” Jellyvision says on its website.
“Jellyvision is very intuitive,” Williams said. “It offers a full-scale interaction with the client.”
Jellyvision isn’t strictly a video enhancement. But it is visual and interactive, infused with the kind of artificial intelligence that is rapidly changing the way enrollment is managed. It meets consumers and employees where they are, communicating on a different level.
That diversity in communications is critical during enrollment if employees are to choose the package that’s best for themselves and their family, he said.
PlanSource’s enrollment period communications strategy addresses the key issue of communicating with its audience in a variety of ways: The printed word, the conference room presentation, and the talking avatar Alex. There are videos and other images included in the package, because everyone learns differently.
Sadly, Williams observed, most companies still stick with the two-part enrollment strategy: The HR lecture to employees in the conference room, and the reams of written materials that few employees bother to read.
And when employees don’t make informed choices about their health plans, costs for the plan sponsor–that’s the employer–generally rise because the plans don’t fit the needs of the individual or family. The accompanying frustration on the part of the employee leads to disengagement in the plan, and loss of confidence in the employer.
What’s your strategy?
Yes, having a well-thought-out social media strategy will help you reach customers. But look at the elements of that plan: Short, bright messages (Twitter), images (Instagram), richer text with images (LinkedIn), friendly sharing of thoughts, photos, aphorisms (Facebook). Social media connects with customers because it emcompasses all the ways that people take in information.
Now, dig into the rest of your communications with your non-customer audiences–current employees, potential new employees, vendors, the news media, investors–and apply the same principles. Just like your customers, these audiences have a financial impact on your company. And they all require a customized communications plan if they are to be effectively told your story.