Every wellness communication strategy has room for improvement — like more professional-looking posters, emails that lead to higher registration rates, and better graphic design with relatable images that don’t hog bandwidth. Once you establish quality, most programs will also benefit from more frequent communication.
As a wellness professional, you can’t do it all. You may be the best program strategist in the world, but not adept in creating fliers or writing promotional copy. Or you may not have time to maintain the steady stream of multi-channeled communication necessary to make a program excel.
If you’re lucky, you have a communication specialist on your team or access to a marketing department eager to support your work. More typically, however, wellness professionals work in lean operations and need to look outside the organization for help.
External communication expertise can come from various sources, including:
- Existing partners, like health plans and wellness vendors
- Freelancers/independent contractors.
The source you choose will depend on the situation. For example, do you need a simple one-and-done flier for a wellness vendor’s new activity? Or a matching set of communication pieces, such as emails, posters, banners, and PowerPoint® slide decks, to promote an overall culture of health?
Most health plans and contracted vendors offer communication help for the programs they provide. Investigate the resources already available to you and make the most of them. If your health plan, for example, operates your program’s tobacco cessation intervention, it’s likely to have templates for a wide range of communication pieces.
Expect communication assistance from your wellness vendors. HES, for example, provides campaign implementation resources such as:
- Communication timeline
- Participant and team leader email templates
- Promotional video.
Your vendor selection process is the best time to learn about the communication support offered.
Program leaders rarely think of wellness interns as having the necessary skills to produce high-quality communication materials. The trick is to hire communication interns who are interested in wellness, for example college students pursuing degrees in graphic design and marketing or English majors who write solid promotional copy. Teaming with interns who specialize in communication assures you’ll have plenty of meaningful work for them. They, consequently, will have a gratifying internship experience as they fill a gap in your operation.
These sources can be an ideal solution if you take appropriate measures to identify the right people. The best referrals are likely to come from inside your organization, such as public relations, marketing, or learning and development departments.
HES uses freelancers and independent contractors (like me) and relies on a rigorous methodology to screen them. In contrast to those who depend solely on a portfolio to size up their abilities, HES auditions them — assuring they’re a good fit and that their work is on par with materials they present to get the job.
Ask them — whether writer, graphic designer, or both — to create a small sample of work based on a hypothetical scenario you provide (a flier for a new activity, program description in a wellness activity catalog, or whatever best simulates a likely assignment). The results will provide insight into skill level, interaction style, and timeliness.
Once you have a good screening process in place, you can consider online systems — such as UpworkTM, which bills itself as a cost-effective platform to “find, hire, work with, and pay the best professionals anywhere, anytime” — especially if you’re unable to obtain referrals.
There are pros and cons to using freelancers/independent contractors. You won’t be able to supervise them closely, and their attention is likely to be split between you and other clients. On the other hand, if you’re not satisfied, you can sever your relationship relatively easily. Sometimes the quality of their work may be lower than expected, but it also may be higher. If you’re rigorous in your selection process, you may be able to build a relationship with writers and designers who are even more talented than any you’d find in your organization. (But don’t mention that to your marketing director.)
Go it alone or get some help?
Not sure whether you need outside help for communications? Check out the HES ebook, Now We’re Talking! Transform Your Wellness Program With an All-Out Communication Strategy. As you read the recommendations, if you think, “We don’t have the time or staff to do that” or if you offer excellent well-being programs but participation rates aren’t satisfactory, it’s time to find help outside your organization.
Bob Merberg is an independent consultant with 20+ years in managing employee well-being programs. He specializes in helping employers increase engagement and health outcomes through innovative programs, communication, workplace environment, and organization development strategies. Bob’s well-being program evaluation results have been featured at wellness conferences and in various media outlets.