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Participant Communication: Fun = Engagement

Here is a little exercise for the retirement plan sponsors out there: take the latest piece that you’ve sent (or are about to send) to plan participants, and show it to someone in your office who knows little about the topic. Ask them to read the communication, and then ask if it was fun to read. If the answer was “no,” then you probably have some work to do with your retirement plan messaging.

And you’re not alone. While some recordkeepers and other services providers are beginning to understand that fun = engagement, others clearly have some progress to make. The primary reason that people don’t save for retirement is affordability. As we enter an era of addressing this through financial wellness and financial independence initiatives, communication that actually engages participants and changes behavior is becoming more critical than ever.

To check up on some service provider efforts in this regard, I collected communications from a recent financial wellness fair. Now, to be clear, these communications were geared to plan sponsors and financial advisors, such as myself, so it may not be directly comparable to participant communication. However, some of these communications contain examples of participant messaging, and I firmly believe that the odds of a provider communicating well with participants if they are communicating poorly with sponsors/advisors is, well, zero.

The results of my review? The communication was, for the most part, the opposite of fun! Walls of text, font that was barely large enough to read, lack of graphics, too much use of jargon (even for a retirement “guru,” such as myself), and pages that were just too busy to convey a strong message. For the most part, the material did not leave me with the feeling that I wanted to act or even learn more - in short, it was not engaging. And, if they can’t engage me on a topic in which I am already interested, chances are the messaging would fall completely flat for others.

However, one provider stood out and their piece was actually fun to read. My attention was immediately grabbed by the success stats of the provider’s financial wellness initiatives and the top actions taken by their plan participants. The communication was concise, heavy on graphics, light on text, and had a pleasing overall look. Even the feel of the brochure paper projected that the message to be delivered was one of substance! I wanted to read more about it when I was done, which is essentially the goal of every communication piece.

Getting back to the colleague reviewing your retirement plan communication - if he/she was not engaged, you may wish to discuss this topic at your next due diligence meeting and develop a plan of action, since a retirement plan is only as good as the participants who properly utilize the benefit.

Are you achieving positive engagement with your retirement plan communications? Share your experience with me on LinkedIn, Twitter or at!

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cammack Retirement Group.

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