If you haven’t told your plan members about Carrigan v. Carrigan Estate, you’re not alone. Not only did the original decision catch the industry off-guard, a recent interpretation of the decision by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has left plan sponsors with more questions than answers.

For industry insiders, Carrigan is a big deal—one that changes how we administer pre-retirement death benefits. But that doesn’t mean it’s a hot topic for members. So, before you ask your lawyer to draft something to plug into your next newsletter—or lift wording from the FSCO website—you might want to take a lesson from the Nursing Homes and Related Industries Pension Plan (NHRIPP).

For the NHRIPP, informing members about Carrigan wasn’t just another item to check off their to-do list. It was a reason to engage members on a bigger issue: incomplete and out-of-date beneficiary information. The plan realized it could incorporate the relevant messages from Carrigan into a “call to action” urging members to update their beneficiary information.

The challenge
But the NHRIPP also realized that its 50,000 members, many of whom are low-income personal care workers, didn’t want (or need) to know the details of Carrigan. After all, do they need to know which court overturned which decision? No. Or what impact the case might have on the Pension Benefits Act? No. Or even the name of the case? Again, no.

In a world of information overload, engaging members in Carrigan (and the importance of keeping their beneficiary information up to date) meant boiling the message down to two essentials:

  1. What do plan members need to know? They need to know that the plan pays a death benefit if you die before retirement.
  2. What do they need to do about it? They need to make sure that their death benefit is paid to the right person.

Getting members’ attention
Of course, the first step in any communication is grabbing the attention of members. A newsletter headline proclaiming “Ontario Court of Appeal decision impacts pre-retirement death benefits” wasn’t going to cut it.

The message needed to be short, targeted and member-centered. The NHRIPP had to cut the extraneous detail, put aside the administrator’s perspective and put itself in members’ shoes. The result? A short, pithy piece with a light tone and a deadly serious warning as seen above.

Related article:

Susan Deller is a principal with Eckler Ltd. and specializes in benefits communications consulting.

These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.

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

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JOHN COURTNEY:

Hi Susan,

I always enjoy your articles as they are written in simple, revevant and easy to understand language.

Under the second magnifying glass, is that the wording from the bottom of a newsletter of the NHRIPP or just a sample of how other plans have communicated this essential information?

Sincerely,

John.

Thursday, August 15 at 11:44 am | Reply

craig.sebastiano@rci.rogers.com:

John,

Yes, that wording is from the NHRIPP’s newsletter.

Thursday, August 15 at 5:15 pm

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