by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Some wellness practitioners are convinced they need an elaborate analysis including a validated health risk assessment to get a good handle on programming direction. While these tools are helpful, they’re not the only — and certainly not the least expensive — way to find out how you can best help people with behavior change goals.

A simple, effective way to get immediate feedback is with How can we help you? cards. Restaurants and hotels have been using them for years with great success. They’re simple 2-5 question surveys with a space for comments. The sole purpose is to get participants to tell you how you can serve them better and improve their chance for success. Distribute them individually, put in mail slots, or place in:

  • Cafeterias, vending machines, break rooms

  • Fitness centers, counseling sessions

  • Health education class follow-ups

  • Nursing stations.

Of course the same approach can be implemented online, but there’s something much more personal about handing out cards and writing responses by hand that drives the point home.

by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Wellness Solutions Archive Health promoters traditionally spend a lot of time and resources trying to attract attention to programs and services. The idea is the more you’re “out there” the greater the chance to engage employees. And while we’re big proponents of intense, multichannel promotions, we also know that to achieve a high participation level over the long haul, managers need to work toward irresistibility — the state where the wellness program draws people in without having to shout at them. Some keys:

  • Personality. If there is ever a department within an organization that deserves personality, it’s your wellness program — because although what you’re encouraging people to do is good for them, it’s not easy. Changing behaviors ingrained over decades is one of the most difficult things many folks will ever do. A wellness program with a little flare, that defies convention and brings a little levity to the challenges of improving health habits, can endear you to the population.

  • Personalization. The larger the organization, the harder the challenge of making your service feel personalized. In some instances you may have to make a trade-off, working with fewer targeted participants in order to have greater impact. That doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to the entire population with online tools, but for those who can benefit the most, there’s no substitute for face-to-face wellness program delivery that’s grounded as much in the relationship as it is the health science.

  • Consistent high quality. Think about your favorite coffee shop, online store, or restaurant. No doubt several things keep pulling you back, but a common element is consistency — you can depend on them to deliver each and every time. For wellness managers, that means making sure everything you do meets a standard you’re proud of and can reach with each service. That may mean you do a little less, but every offering is top shelf.

  • Surprise. The element of surprise adds spice to relationships as well as wellness programs — think of it as the unexpected flowers delivered for no particular reason. Look to delight participants in unanticipated, unconventional ways with things that don’t have to cost much, if anything — a note of congratulations, a mention on your wellness blog, a basket of fresh fruit for a job well done.

  • Patience. People are ready to commit to relationships at different times and varying pace. Don’t be in a hurry to gain commitment from those who aren’t yet ready to take that first or next step. Let them know you’re there when the time is right and you’ll attract a lot more than if they feel they’re being pursued.

by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Health promotion professionals often forget that at least half of the job is promotion (we would argue it’s closer to 80%) and spend a majority of time on health. While it’s great that you have stored vast wellness and disease prevention knowledge, it doesn’t do your organization much good if you can’t promote health to the masses.

Job 1 is getting them interested in what you have to offer. That’s why we spend so much time exploring promotion ideas that work. Here are a few more:

  • Staggering promotions. Design program schedules to catch the “planners” and “procrastinators.” An effective model is the bell curve, where you start out with subtle, low-cost promotions, build to your primary ones, then close with more modest reminders right up until the deadline.
  • Using referrals. Solicit referrals from current participants and call or email promotions to their friends/colleagues. This is a little more time consuming, but it results in a much higher return than blanket promotions.
  • Repeating promotions. If you find a technique works particularly well with a segment of your population, repeat it to the same group immediately. Again, you’ll beat blanket promotions 9 times out of 10 if you repeat effective promotions to interested groups.
  • Testing price and product. Select a few dozen potential participants to test different combinations of fees and features before rolling out a new service. You wouldn’t be the first to find a more expensive or less involved activity attracts more interest.
  • Using testimonials. Real life, believable testimonies bring in fence-sitters. Use them.
  • Adding graphics that contribute to the message. Whether you’re giving a presentation or distributing a 1-page flier, any pictures or illustrations should reinforce your message, not detract from it.
  • Focusing on benefits. Features don’t mean much; people want to know how they’ll look better, feel better, live longer, have more energy, etc. The length of the program, format, and instructor credentials are merely footnotes to these main messages.

Spend 4 of your 5 days a week (80%) working on the promotion side of health promotion this quarter to see if your participation starts to climb.