Quick Summary: An internal blog where employees can ask questions about benefits and share health concerns with a group signed on to the blog is a great supplement to your corporate health education materials.
Alegent Health, which operates 9 hospitals and a network of clinics in Nebraska and Iowa, switched to a consumer-driven health care plan in 2006. To ensure the huge undertaking was a success, Alegent Health methodically communicated the details of the plan to its 8,500 employees in a variety of ways, ranging from informational brochures and webinars to one-on-one sessions and large-scale benefit fairs. It also relied on an internal blog.
“We were able to clear up questions—sometimes questions that multiple people had—in a fast and efficient electronic forum,” says Amy Protexter, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer of Alegent Health. “It also helped give us a sense of how people were feeling about the changes.” Senior managers, who were the bloggers, typically responded to employees’ postings the same day.
Alegent Health’s strategic communications effort achieved notable results: 80% of eligible employees enrolled in the new health plan. “We continue to blog today on current day topics and see tremendous readership,” says Protexter. “It’s a great way to get information out quickly.”
As your company sets up an internal blog to communicate with staff about benefits, consider the following advice from Protexter and Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book:
- Write in a conversational tone, says Weil. “Get rid of corporate speak, and it’s so much more effective,” she says. “People will respond, and you’ll achieve your goal of communicating important information.”
- Post a new blog every 7 to 10 days. “Concentrate on shorter, more frequent entries,” says Weil, “and you’ll find people actually read them.” Your postings might include details about an upcoming flu shot clinic, tips for avoiding overeating during the holidays, or reminders about deadlines for next year’s health savings plan.
- Promote the blog. “Like any communication strategy, you need a way to tell people about it,” says Weil. She recommends announcing the blog via a series of emails, informing employees what the first few topics will be.
- Encourage comments. Add a post that explains how to comment, then pre-populate the blog with a few well-placed comments, says Weil. “It’s like a rolling stone,” she says. “The more comments there are, the more people think, ‘I better read the blog.’”
- Monitor the blog closely, advises Protexter. “If someone posts incorrect information in a comment, you’ve got to be prepared to provide facts to correct that misinformation so it doesn’t get out of hand,” she says. Use your internal experts to respond to comments quickly and accurately.
- “Use what you learn to redirect, enhance, or increase the frequency of your conversations,” says Protexter. “Employees’ comments will help you understand where your messages are working—and where they aren’t.”
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