Posts Tagged ‘health’
It’s no secret that health benefits are complex. Health benefits are also personal. In today’s highly charged health care landscape, communicating any changes related to health care benefits needs to account for this more than ever.
A recently robotic, convoluted benefits letter I read reminded me about this. The letter was supposed to inform people about a bunch of changes and things they have to do by certain dates. I had to keep rereading the letter to figure out what the company was trying to say and what action readers had to take. The basic point of the letter was to let everyone know that a new company was going to administer the benefit by July 1. At the end of the letter, it indicated the next monthly premium payment. I noticed right away that the premium went up by $20. Did someone miss this rate increase explanation somewhere amidst the robotic mumbo jumbo? Nope. There was no mention of the rate increase. Anywhere. Was the rate increase simply a mistake? Another confusing point was that while the change was effective July 1, the company enclosed a payment coupon for June.
This letter got us thinking about some key things to think about when crafting benefits messages – especially about changes:
- Provide straightforward context about why the changes are happening. Why did you choose a new benefits administrator? How will employees benefit? Will they notice any changes in service?
- Lose the robotic language. Don’t start the letter with “Effective immediately” or “Effective [date].”
- Don’t bury important changes. Um, like premium rate increases. Premium increases are touchy and should be acknowledged thoughtfully. (Hopefully, the increase is a mistake.)
- Be compassionate. You’re writing about a sensitive topic. Enough said.
- Clearly list steps to take. The information is complex enough. Spell out clearly what employees need to do and when.
- Test pilot your communications. Share your drafts with a few people whom the change will impact. Ask them for honest feedback about what is clear and what isn’t.
Most journalists hope to deliver powerful stories such as showing the strength of the human spirit. Some of the stories I covered that continue to stand out for me are men and women, young and old, battling back from a significant health problem with the help of a rehabilitation facility. You could define those reports as stories of struggle. I saw them as an alliance between a healthcare professional and often a young person determined to regain something lost or conquer something never before achieved.
The people who oversaw our editorial meetings never made my reports on these subjects the lead story. But I believed few stories in that day’s newscast matched the passion and emotion surrounding the people I profiled.
It is easy for rehabilitation centers to argue some of these stories should stay private. But I often interviewed patients who supported the opportunity to tell their story to as many viewers as possible while hopefully inspiring them. Rehab facilities should open their doors when appropriate and ensure the media and other outlets on the internet realize the centers and their patients can deliver important and often timely healthcare related stories. I remember Joyce, who due to government cuts, was not covered for important types of therapy.
When pitching these types of stories to the media:
- Establish a relationship with a journalist who has a built-in interest for healthcare stories. Some reporters thrive on breaking news and aren’t interested in stories that immediately place them several commercials into a newscast. Find a journalist who views this as more than just another assignment and will ensure the station doesn’t simply slap the story together like any other.
- Identify a patient. It’s easy to offer the media only an expert or healthcare professional. But the real story is the patient. More people might sign that consent form than you realize.
- Plan ahead. It takes time ensuring the patient and the healthcare professional can meet with the media at a time that won’t make others at the facility uncomfortable.
- Offer the reporter an opportunity to watch the patient take part in physical therapy. Such visuals add so much to any story. Watching someone take that next step is an emotional moment.
- Look for timely news opportunities. Some stories are so compelling, they don’t need to tie into anything in particular happening in our society. But newsrooms often want the story to connect to some important issue currently on people’s minds. Few issues in today’s environment are debated more than healthcare. Find a timely topic and offer a patient whose personal story will show the world these complex debates are about much more than crunching numbers.