When I consult with clients, I like to emphasize the value of well-written benefit communication materials, but I often wonder if they understand its importance. Though most people are not professional writers, they’re able to recognize “good” or “not so good” writing when they see it.
For example, have you ever gone to a restaurant to find a menu fraught with typos or lacking organization? If you’re like me, you may wonder about the owner’s attention to detail. Is the food quality lacking? Is the kitchen clean?
Or you may have received a promotional letter from a local business that’s full of misspelled words and poorly constructed sentences. Does the mediocre pitch make you question whether the business knows its own business that well?
I recently reviewed a benefit guide that was so confusing, I felt sorry for the employees who would have to try and make sense of the information.
One of the more disturbing errors included inconsistent terminology. For example, health care flexible spending accounts were referred to by the correct name, but also as medical FSAs, FSAs, health FSAs, health flex accounts and so on. Imagine being an employee struggling to understand the concept of an FSA and wondering if all of those names referred to the same product!
Additionally, FSA information was featured in three different sections. Some of the information was repeated in each section, while some of the introductory information didn’t appear until the final section. Perhaps the intent was to ensure employees heard the message, but scattered, disorganized information will likely confuse them.
Engaging a professional writer, or using preset content from a template, is a good idea when you consider:
- A professional writer with deep benefit knowledge can translate technical and often confusing information into easy-to-read and easy-to-understand language
. Your organization may have an internal marketing or communication team, but unless the writers within those teams are benefit savvy or have a willingness to learn, they may not have the skills to develop effective content.
- Good writing is a distinct skill, and as with any skill, some people have more experience. A professional writer can take this awkward paragraph:
The medical plans have different levels of coverage depending on if the service provider (i.e., doctor, lab or hospital) is a member of the carrier’s network (in network) or not (out of network). Please note, your out-of-pocket costs will be more if you select an out-of-network provider.
…and transform it into the short, easy-to-understand:
Our medical plans offer different levels of coverage for in- and out-of-network providers. You may pay more out of pocket if you receive services from an out-of-network provider.
so the reader can comprehend it at a glance. They can also present it in a way that makes the most sense for your organization.
Benefits comprise a good chunk of your organization’s costs. Working with professional writers and designers to share the information in an appealing manner is money well spent. After all, the real value is in how your employees perceive their benefits. It would be a shame to diminish that value because your communications are poorly written and confusing.