Benefits Communication 101: Taking The First Steps

Benefits Communication 101: Taking the First Steps

Do you have a professional marketing writer on your HR or benefits team? If you’re like most, the answer is a resounding no.

Although it can be challenging, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to think and write like a marketer. And here’s the truth: you have to.

In the tight talent market we’re in, it’s vital to the overall success of your business. And with the rise of health care consumerism, your employees are paying more attention to their benefit decisions. That means you have to show employees the value of their benefits, gain their buy-in and connect them to their benefits on a personal level. The good news is that effective, engaging communication can help you do just that.

In a previous post, we discussed the seven-step formula, straight out of the marketing playbook, that you can apply to your open enrollment communications plan. Here we will take a closer look at the first three steps – your Benefits Communication 101 course – to set the stage for the rest of your benefits communication strategy.

1. State Your Goal

What is your mission? What are you ultimately trying to accomplish?

You may think this is where you start. But on the contrary, it’s where you want to end up. When creating your goal, keep this question in mind, “At the end of all of your hard work, what do you want the end result to be?”  

You can also think of your goal as a mission statement, giving your communications plan a distinct purpose to which you can hold yourself accountable.

It can be tempting to go too specific here, but marketing pros urge you to construct a goal that's overarching.


To ensure our employees enroll in the best-fit benefit plans that help them better manage their health and financial well-being.

To encourage a healthier workforce at a reasonable cost through programs that address well-being.

2. Define Your Audience(s)

Who will your message(s) speak to?

If you use a megaphone to share your message, does that mean it really got across? Everyone may have heard it, yes. But it’s not going to encourage action.

To get the right message to the right person, you have to make it personal. When marketers want to accomplish this, they turn to personas to help segment their audience. Think of personas as a profile of a group of people to help you better understand their traits, experiences, needs and behaviors. You, as an HR professional, can apply this same principle to develop profiles of your employees.   

Relevancy and personalization are a must, especially in today’s age of overstuffed inboxes and a constant influx of communication. Don’t get too into the weeds on this. Think of it more as breaking down your workforce into higher-level groups, such as by generation, geographic location, or marital status.


Millennial hourly workers

Single remote workers

3. Determine Your Objectives

Precisely what would you like to see as the desired outcome?

We’ve reached the final foundational stage. You’ve put in a lot of hard work already, but here is where you dive into the details.

You have to outline the specifics with your objectives to not only work towards your goal, but set a clear direction for your strategic benefits communication.

Ultimately, it’s all about alignment. Your objectives align to your goal. The messages you communicate to your various audiences support those objectives. Voila! You drive employees to take the right action.

But here’s the key thing to know about objectives – they have to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound). What does that mean exactly? Let’s take a look at how SMART objectives work in the context of employee benefits communication:

  • Keep your objectives specific. Be as precise as possible when formalizing your approach to achieving your goal. If you can’t make a clear connection between how an objective will help you reach your goal, then it needs more attention.
  • Consider the measurable components. In the end, were you successful? The only way to know for sure is to calculate where you were before and where you are now. Hence, the measurable components. Plus, think of it as leverage. Your employees are your company’s greatest asset. Use the data to make the connection between benefits, your employees and your company’s business goals with your company’s C-suite. The result? Benefits move past being seen as a line item and towards being seen as part of your company’s strategic direction.
  • Make it attainable. Being too lofty with your objectives benefits no one. Even if you have to take small incremental steps each year, make sure you are setting objectives that are realistic.
  • Relevancy should be the benchmark. This may seem like a no brainer. But it’s always worth noting that your objectives should be based on how relevant it is to your current workforce dynamics or makeup, not what it may have been in the past or what you want to see in the future.
  • Incorporate the time-bound aspect. Wrapping your objectives around a specific time frame makes it more concrete. Set your time frame and stick to it.

Now, take a look at the objective example below and identify the aspects that make it SMART.

Example: To increase enrollment in HDHPs by 20% and increase participation in HSAs by 10% by December 31.


Articulating the value of benefits in a way that employees understand starts with a little prep work. But once you take those first steps, you can create messages that make an impact and – more importantly – drive action to help you achieve your end goal.    

Find all the resources you need to start laying the foundation for your employees benefits communication strategy in the OE Success Kit!