How To Create Effective Communication For High Engagement in Wellness Programs

April 10, 2017


In our podcast, we talked about how wellness programs are becoming a must-have, as more and more employees expect their employer to provide some wellness benefits. Yet, there’s this notion that you need to be a big corporation with a deep pocket to have a comprehensive program. This is simply not true.

Small companies can deliver a quality wellness program on a tight budget, and this is because of a simple principle: good employee wellness programs are ones filled with genuine care and the desire to help, not dollar bills.

Note: This is the second article of our Wellness On A Budget series, where we discuss the roadmap to organizing a wellness challenge while on a limited budget. Part I discussed the logistical and technical side of organizing, while this article focuses on increasing engagement through communication. Part III will provide you with some inspiration on picking thoughtful yet affordable rewards for your program.

Communication is a crucial aspect of a wellness challenge, yet it is often overlooked. If you want your employees to carve out time from their already busy schedule to join the program, you need to be able to communicate the benefits of participation in an engaging and enticing way - make it so attractive they cannot say no.

Essential? Yes, but it is no easy feat; planning and executing effective communications is time-consuming. A thorough guide on this topic would call for an entire eBook. However, to get you started, we've included in this article the most important aspects of effective communication, as well as some brilliant (FREE) tools you can utilize in your program.

communication calendar for wellness challenges template
#1 Be Organized
Communication should never be an afterthought; you should have your materials planned out well before being sent. The easiest way to achieve this is by creating an editorial calendar for your communication.

Yes, the editorial calendar that many marketers are using.  In fact, you should put on your marketing hat and approach recruitment for your company's wellness program the same way you'd "sell" to a customer. That's how convincing your messages have to be if you want to grab employees' attention.

After all, the average person receives around 124 emails in their inbox on any given day, and every single one of them is directly competing with you for their attention. Having a flow of communication in place will improve comprehension and relevance, making employees more receptive to the subsequent messages you send out.
What should I include in my calendar?

You should include every communication related to the challenge, including:
- Emails
- Social media posts
- Prints/posters
- Intranet messages, etc.

Each message, regardless of its distribution channel, should be aggregated in one document (your calendar) with its relevant information. Our recommended column headers are:
- Week (to/from launch date)
- Publish Date
- Title/Description
- Status
- Due Date
- Type of Communication
- Producer
- Notes

Planning out these details beforehand will allow you to see the big picture and will also provide you with an actionable plan to follow. Additionally, having a short gap between the due date and the publish date will allow enough time for crafting creative and engaging messages, avoiding the panic of last-minute writing from robbing you of your creative juice!

Below is an example of how you can create your own communication calendar:

communication calendar for wellness program example
The most useful tool to create a communication calendar is the good ol’ spreadsheet (plus, it's free!). Here’s a template to get you started, but don’t be shy about changing it up and customizing it for your need!

If you have a co-organizer (and you should - administering a challenge is a lot of work!), use Google Sheet to collaborate in real time.

#2 Personalization
With the amount of emails that we get, nobody needs another generic “Hey there” greeting. Luckily, tools like MailChimp makes personalizing surprisingly easy.

Once you’ve imported your participants’ information (name, email, etc.), you'll have the option to send out emails that address people by their first name. Studies have shown that emails with the recipient's first name in the subject lines have higher open rates. Again, this is where the research on basic marketing can help tremendously with intranet communication.

You can personalize it further by segmenting email recipients. For example, you can send an additional reminder to people who did not open your email or sign up for the challenge. This way, there's no redundancy, and people don't get annoyed by emails that they don't need to see.

MailChimp's free version supports up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. This capacity should be more than enough to support a small-scale challenge. Anything bigger than this scale, things can really get out of hand. You should rely on professional service at that point to ensure the best experience for your employees.

#3 Be Factual
When you are running a challenge, you should also send educational materials out to increase engagement and retention as well as maximizing employees' adoption of healthy behaviors. For example, if you're organizing a walking challenge, you should collect and distribute information on the benefits of walking, the health risks of prolonged inactivity and sitting, etc. Below is an example infographic, created by the International Sports & Culture Association’s Campaign to Get Europe Moving.

get europe moving infographic
Whatever information you decide to publish, you need to use trusted and reliable sources. Luckily, you don't need access to expensive publications to get factual information. There are free and trusted sources out there you can count on. A few of our favorites are:

American Heart Association

Intermountain Healthcare

Fitbase Blog and Research Library
(This one is special, because of the site’s connection with Fitbit - the wearable manufacturer. We would usually take their articles with a grain of salt, but since this section of their resources is based heavily on research, we feel more comfortable recommending it to our readers.)

Health News -

Another helpful source that people don’t think about often is their alma mater’s library resources. Most schools extend their library access to alumni, which means that you can access publications from your school’s accounts long after you graduate. If you don’t mind going through the more formal research articles or if you have a particular fact you want to check, being able to quickly search through the library resource can be helpful.

As a rule of thumb, here’s a quick guide to help you judge the legitimacy of your sources (adapted from John Hopkins Medicine’s Website):

Does the site use reliable research? Do they provide links to the original research/source of information? Check many sources for the same information - are the results the same?

Websites that end in .org, .gov or .edu are usually the most reliable websites for health facts. If the website you got the information on is not a non-profit/governmental website, do they link their claims to authoritative websites?

Who pays for the website/research? This is not to say that information provided on a company's blog cannot be factual; you just need to do you due diligence to make sure that you get reliable data or information. For example, in the Wellable blog, we always link our claims to the original research where we got our data. This brings us back to accuracy - make sure that the sites you use have links to the original research or source of information.

When were the facts last updated? Medical research evolves constantly, so information should not be older than three years.

#4 Get Creative
If you've been on social media at all, you can see graphic's domination across all channels. Media like infographics, short videos, and pictures deliver information in a quick and engaging way.
“But I don’t have a graphic designer to deal with that!”
Well, you don't need one. With the tools available online, creating graphic is painless and quicker than it's ever been. For example, an infographic can be created in half an hour (or less) on platforms like Canva or Venngage. Even better, they have an extensive library of templates that you can use - no experience in design needed!

canva screenshot
Both Canva and Venngage have free versions to start out with. Canva’s model is pay-as-you-go, meaning that you only pay for whatever premium add-in you want to put in your design (check out their tutorial page for design inspirations!). Venngage is free to create and share on social media. Their paid (but affordable) subscription will give you access to more advanced templates and allow you to download your visuals.

If you want to run repeating challenges, communicating the success of previous ones can be a great selling point to recruit more participants! Hopefully, your challenge would have generated a lot of word-of-mouth the first time around, and that participants would eagerly recruit their colleagues to join in future programs. To make the evangelists' work easier, here are some creative things you can do:

- Create a photobook of past challenges in the form of a Powerpoint and share it with the rest of the company.
- Record short videos of people participating/giving testimonials to share (Note: with permissions from employees, this kind of footage is also a great way to showcase your company’s culture to the world on your website and social media.)

What’s next?                                     
You just learned the four key aspects of a successful communication plan; you are now ready to create effective and creative messages for your challenge! Apply them to achieve unprecedented engagement in your program, and let us know how it goes!

*Keep an eye out for Part III of our Wellness On A Budget series, where we provide you with some inspirations on practical and meaningful rewards you can give out to participants. Also, subscribe to our blog to get new articles delivered straight to your inbox!

wellness challenge on a budget

Topics: Engagement

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