The pandemic has accelerated a shift toward virtual communication, that leaves older, less tech-savvy members out of the loop.
Not all members are comfortable with new tech. Those who aren't accustomed to receiving information digitally may rely on the phone or mail to correspond with their union.
Member engagement depends on a robust benefits communication strategy that uses multiple channels to reach all members. The strategy should quickly, clearly and accurately tell members about changes to their benefits. It also should also make health plan information and health literacy tools easily accessible.
Here's how union leaders can create a strong benefits communication plan that addresses the needs and challenges of these uncertain times.
Collect Member Contact Information
To ensure benefits updates go to all relevant members, make a regular point of gathering and updating contact information — if possible, annually. Include each member's name, address, phone, email and, if applicable, a secondary means of contact.
Send out an email blast, and notify members through social media that they should expect an email in the near future to hit their inboxes. For members who aren't accustomed to being online and receiving emails or updates on social media platforms, send forms through the mail.
Produce Informational Materials
With member contact information in hand, you can then create informational materials in the form of pamphlets, brochures and short videos. Take a multi-pronged approach: Tailor different messages based on members' preferences and digital comfort level.
Drum Up a Distribution Plan
To ensure that all members receive benefits updates, come up with an omnichannel plan to distribute these materials. Apart from digital channels, such as social media platforms, newsletters and email blasts, remember to send materials along through regular mail.
Organize Informational Webinars
By March 2020, nearly half of U.S. adults reported using FaceTime to videoconference with friends. Besides a structured portion for webinars and informational sessions, there should be ample time for Q&As and some time for participants to have their needs and concerns heard.
Host One-on-One Sessions
Look into using Zoom or a similar platform, such as FaceTime, to connect with members individually. This creates an opportunity to answer questions specific to a member's situation, offer personalized information and even build a custom game plan for the member to navigate their health care.
Clearly Address Confidentiality Concerns
For members to feel confident that their personal information is secure, inform them of the privacy and security measures you're taking to protect their identity. This includes how their contact information is stored and what removal or destruction looks like after the information has been scanned. You could also explain any encryption methods in place to protect online member accounts.
As online scams are always a concern, it might be beneficial to educate members on how to safeguard their privacy, including telltale signs of phishing scams from cybercriminals and how to create a strong password.
A strong benefits communication strategy is multi-pronged to encompass all members' needs. And these needs will change over time, as well — revisiting your strategy on a frequent basis and making modifications as needed will ensure that your tactics remain effective and relevant even as digital communication itself continues to evolve.
Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer who has written for both Fortune 500 companies and fintech startups. In a former life, she worked in the communications department of an entertainment labor union. Now a full-time freelancer, she enjoys helping fellow freelancers build a successful business.