In previous columns, I’ve talked about the importance of personalized communication—giving members the information they need, when they need it. In our information-heavy and attention-span-light world, there is a small window of opportunity to connect with your employees.

That means it’s vital to use the huge amounts of data available to us in this industry to help drive content and strip out what’s not directly relevant to a particular individual—whether it’s an early retirement subsidy for which he or she will never qualify due to age or service requirements, or a benefit that doesn’t apply because of province of residence.

In a world of information overload, personalized communication allows you to minimize communication interventions and wring the most benefit from whatever small window of opportunity you have to connect with your employees. But you still need to get their attention!

One way to truly personalize your plan communication—and improve the odds of getting members’ attention—is to target specific information needs and learning styles. For example, any well-executed pension or total rewards statement will outline the benefits and plan provisions that apply to the individual member. But if you really want to grab their attention, you can take it further by tailoring the message, language and layout of your communication based on the member’s demographic profile (or cohort). Think of it as uber-personalization.

Communication targeted to a younger demographic might do the following:

  • use language that’s a little more relaxed;
  • focus on first steps toward financial wellness; and
  • incorporate imagery, graphics and colours that reflect a younger audience with a more active lifestyle and shorter attention span.

By comparison, communication for members belonging to an older demographic might do the following:

  • use language that’s a bit more formal;
  • focus on financial security and the implications of key retirement decisions; and
  • use imagery, graphics and fonts that reflect an older audience’s lifestyle and reading needs.
  • Age is just one of the demographic filters you can use to tailor your member communication. You can also slice and dice based on gender, income, education, marital status, job level, union/non-union, financial literacy levels—the options are virtually unlimited, and each of these cohorts will have its own unique communication preferences.

    And targeting your membership by cohort isn’t just useful for statements. The same approach can be used to create booklets, websites, email blasts and other communication tools that will capture the attention of your members.

    Why bother to make the extra effort?

    To communicate effectively, employers need to identify and cater to an increasingly diverse population within their workplaces. Younger employees coming on board will have a very different set of lifestyle priorities and expectations than older employees who may be deferring retirement. Highly paid employees will have different financial concerns from those in lower-income brackets—and so on. Your communication should be customized to reflect these differences so the material resonates with its intended audience. And today’s technology makes this cohort-based tailoring not only possible but also much more affordable than in the past.

    Plan members are bombarded with information all day, every day. If your communication doesn’t grab—and hold—the attention of your target audience within seconds, it will quickly sink to the bottom of the pile and be forgotten. Cohort streaming will give your communication materials—and, ultimately, your message—that little extra kick it needs to stand out…and stick.

    Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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    John Por:

    Excellent article, making valid points. It is a sad but well documented fact that members are not interested in these issues to start with (who knows why?), so tailoring the message by cohort most definitely make it more relevant.

    Our Institute also found that certain concepts members will never retain, no matter how often and hard we might try; it’s therefore important to know what we could hope for in achieving traction.

    Tuesday, July 22 at 5:17 pm | Reply

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