Here are a few stats that really drive home just how critical benefits communication is for HR pros. According to a recent Towers Watson study:

  • When employees that were offered rich employer benefits received poor communication, just 22% of those workers reported being satisfied with their benefits.
  • On the other hand, when employers with less-rich benefits communicated those benefits effectively, 76% of workers reported being satisfied with their employers’ benefit offerings.

Check out what Ellen Anreder of BCI states about the importance of communications in the HR Practice:

To help assist in your efforts, here are some of the most common — and costly — benefits communication mistakes:

  1. Having boring employee benefits information available only at work. There’s a common misconception among workers that anything about benefits is going to be boring. But when HR pros don’t make the effort to make their benefits presentations interesting, the message is bound to be lost on employees. Also, employees should have access to benefits material at home, via mail or employee portals.
  2. Having all of your communications across one platform. In today’s communication marketplace, there are cost-effective tools that allow communicators to draft compelling and engaging messages across a variety of media. Try a variety of low-cost items like interactive PDFs, video, and rotating PowerPoint presentations on your intranet to allow your employees to comprehend and understand the key points of the message. 
  3. Not allotting enough of the budget to the benefits communications. Upper management often doesn’t have a handle on just how much solid benefits communications are going to cost — at least not in the same way HR does. 
    As Anreder noted, “it’s critical that the employees are informed, and they’re educated on the value of benefits.” Benefits communication must be more detailed than standard inter-office communications.
  4. Believing all workers will bring their benefits info home and discuss it with their family members. They don’t. Effective benefits communication should always try to include spouses and family members. And, the messaging should include encourage this discussion, and have employees compare their plans with their family members’ plans.
  5. Assuming employees will simply act on the messages in the benefitcommunications. It’s up to HR to specifically tell staffers what they should do with the benefits info as well as why.
  6. Believing workers will read their open enrollment materials cover to cover on their own time. The more HR can go over during the actual open enrollment meeting, the better. Of course, enrollment time shouldn’t be the only time benefits info should be addressed. Communication should be a year-long process.
  7. Let Legal draft all of your benefits communications. When employers let a legal department write all your benefits communications, there’s a very good chance the documents will be littered with legalese that confuses employees, bores them to the point of tuning out or both.
  8. Opting for “professional-sounding” language instead of simple “plain-speak” English. Sure, HR pros’ world is filled with jargon, buzzwords and benefits-related acronyms, but rank-and-file employees’ worlds are not. Keep the benefit communications as simple as possible.
  9. Covering too much info. It’s only natural to try and cram everything possible into your open enrollment materials, but when there’s just too much being thrown at employees, they suffer from information overload — and retain little (if any) of what was covered.

Remember, continuous education is a proven way to improve employees’ decision-making regarding their benefits, which should be the goal of every communication effort.

The Future of Internet News is Here

Facebook unveiled Instant Articles yesterday, its much talked about direct-to-Facebook publishing deal. The service allows publishers to create “fast and interactive articles on Facebook”. From what I’ve seen, Articles allows for the next generation in storytelling, with highly interactive features and a beautiful layout. This may be the future of quality news on the Internet (and I couldn’t be more excited).

Photo courtesy of facebook

Photo courtesy of facebook

It’s no secret that more people than ever turn to their phones to get the news. Facebook knew that sharing of that content was taking quite a while to load – an average of eight seconds, and, “by far the slowest single content type on Facebook”. The sites that people were clicking through via those shared links were also clunky. The goal for the Facebook consumer was to allow users to share their news more easily, particularly via their mobile app.

The New York TimesThe Atlanticthe Guardian, and NBC News are working with Facebook to launch Instant Articles. National GeographicBuzzFeed and German News outlet Bild are also on board. Instant Articles offers four big points to the publisher. First, with its plethora of interactive features, the platform provides a better experience to Facebook users. This will hopefully translate into more readers. Second, they give the publishers control over their content. Next, and probably the most important to the outlets, they maintain monetization opportunities through their own ads, or choose to implement Facebook’s Audience Network. They can also track traffic data through analytic tools.

See a video and complete details on Instant Articles

Facebook also hopes that publishers and consumers will be drawn to Instant Articles by its interactive attributes. Some of the apps features include such as zooming in of high-resolution photos and examining the photo by tilting the phone left and right, seamless video autoplay, utilization of interactive maps, audio caption playback and watch GIFs while reading a story.

If you’re like me and have a thirst for quality stories from credible outlets, and interested in getting it easily, Instant Articles may be the answer. The platform launched on Facebook for iPhone with a special set of stories published by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and The Atlantic. 

What Facebook's Updated Terms Means to You


Facebook introduced its Privacy Basics to help users set up their privacy in late 2014. They set up the Privacy Basics landing page to help you more easily determine your privacy settings across all of your devices (phones, tablets, tablets, etc.). Facebook also updated:

All of these changes took place on January 30, 2015.

Marketing and Communication professionals should also take a look at the terms for any Facebook Pages you might run. You'll need to know everything on the Promotions Guidelines, which apply if you offer contests, sweepstakes, and other types of promotions on Facebook. (This is important as Facebook will happily close down your contest / promotion if you don't adhere to their guidelines.) Take the time to read these documents, no matter how dry they may seem, so you understand what information is used and how Facebook uses it. 

Your personal information and posted content

Facebook addresses intellectual property rights. There has been a lot of concern about intellectual property rights on social networking platforms. Facebook addresses this with its new rules with its standard language.

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings….You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
— Sharing Your Content and Information, #2, TOS

Facebook shares personal user information with its advertisers. They are very clear when they say, “Our goal is to deliver advertising and other commercial or sponsored content that is valuable to our users and advertisers.” They also are clear they will use your name, profile picture, content, and information in ads. This is why when you search for particular items, Facebook immediately shows relevant posts and ads. Right now it is used as social proof, as in showing the names of your friends who LIKE a certain page, etc.

You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.
— About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or Enhanced by Facebook, #9, TOS

What you can't do on Facebook

Facebook then addresses what you CANNOT do on its site. In addition to the expected prohibitions for illegal activities, here were some of the prohibitions that I've seen some marketers violate. You should read the TOS to learn all the rules but here's a few items from the Safety section:

  • You will not post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook.
  • You will not engage in unlawful multi-level marketing, such as a pyramid scheme, on Facebook.
  • You will not develop or operate a third-party application containing alcohol-related, dating or other mature content (including advertisements) without appropriate age-based restrictions. 

You cannot have multiple accounts and Facebook will make sure of it. In addition, they've updated the Registration and Account Security section. You can’t have multiple accounts (one for personal and one for business), you can’t make your personal account your business name (you'll need to get a page), and if you use a company trademark that doesn’t belong to you, Facebook reserves the right to take it away from you and give it to the trademark holder. Also, you can’t transfer your page without permission, which means that you can't technically "sell" a popular page.

You will not create more than one personal account...If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission...You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes...If you select a username or similar identifier for your account or Page, we reserve the right to remove or reclaim it if we believe it is appropriate (such as when a trademark owner complains about a username that does not closely relate to a user’s actual name)...You will not transfer your account (including any Page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.
— Registration and Account Security, #4, TOS

What are your thoughts on this? Have you run into security issues with Facebook? Ever been shut down? 

Why Communications Plans Fail

Communications professionals understand that the strategic planning process is a vital part of any project. A comprehensive plan not only helps manage the project, but includes all of the research and results necessary to demonstrate value of the communications team. 

So what keeps these professionals from completing a good strategic plan? In my experience, one of the biggest factors is time. Internal professionals are bombarded with “urgent” action items. They’re often proceeding directly to a solution without understanding the “why” behind the message.

They also neglect some of the most vital components. While each step is important, some steps frequently get missed. Here are some of the most frequent mishaps I’ve encountered that, with some time, can drastically improve a communications strategy: 

1.  Not having a goal or objectives. Goals are broad statements that include the intended results. Objectives support the goals and are more clearly defined. When crafting goals, you should consider what you’re trying to achieve. What outcomes do you want to see as a result of your communication efforts? This sounds obvious, but it’s often missed. 

Objectives state definitive outcomes and are usually time-sensitive. They should include as many of the 5W’s and the H as possible. Good communicators measure the success of their plans against well-established objectives.

For example,  “Start an IT security program” is not the best goal. It doesn’t state the audience outcome. 

“To generate awareness and compliance with our new IT security program” is an example of a good goal. It states the expected audience outcome and connection to the company.  “98% of our U.S. organization will complete the new online security program training by the end of Q1” is an objective to support that goal.

2. Not conducting enough research.  Many communicators feel their research is complete once they’ve taken a look at their audiences. Yet, they frequently forget to examine the organization itself.

What is the story of the organization? What is its situational analysis? Where is the organization headed and how can it achieve sustainability? Asking the tough questions, and staying the course, will only enhance the deliverables and increase results.

3. Thinking you know more than the research. Research is essential to any communication plan—whether conducted to identify a goal or to understand the audience, situation and environment. 

Researching the organization and the audience comes into play. Surveys, interviews, focus groups, and other mechanisms provide clearer focus on the audience. Communicators learn who they are, and if thorough enough, understand their habits, concerns and preferences. All this data is invaluable when planning communications.

When communicators believe they know better than their research, the situation can get hazy. Communicators often take a “shotgun” approach, not aligning the audiences with the proper channels. They try different media, rather than focusing on what is most effective. 

Moving forward

With the 24/7 onslaught of complex communications, sometimes its best to review the basics. New approaches, ideas, apps, and media channels are developed every day, mucking the water and distracting professionals from the tried and true plan. Keep your goals, objectives and research in mind. This will help you stay the course.