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Member engagement: Four simple tips for going beyond the tick-box approach

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Pension scheme members have multiple choices to make along their retirement savings journey. Whether it’s how much to save, when to retire or how to take benefits, engaging members is key to helping them make informed choices and maximise their outcomes.

Though this won’t be new information to many, chances are you’re still not managing to engage members quite as much as you’d like.

Let’s take the Chair’s Statement as an example – despite its many aims and intentions, the DWP have recently conducted a review into the effectiveness of this document only to find that it’s missing the mark.
Why? Well, for starters, it seems nobody really knows who it’s for and it’s trying to do far too much all at once. In addition, some respondents reported that they’d come to see the Chair’s Statement as a “tick-box exercise”.

But these issues aren’t limited to the realms of the Chair’s Statement. Along with other common issues, the tick-box approach mentality is a shared problem for many which stands in the way of truly engaging members.
So, how do we go beyond the tick-box approach?

1) Think end to end
Thinking end to end means seeing the bigger picture. Look at where your members begin their retirement journey and where it comes to an end, and what happens to them along the way. Do you communicate with them regularly from start to finish? Do you check in with relevant messages at key life stages? Or, do you, as many do, tend to communicate only when those statutory deadlines roll around?
If your communications calendar revolves around statutory deadlines alone, perhaps it’s time to put your strategy cap on and think about how and when your members will benefit most from communications. Timing really is key!

2) Know your audience
Knowing your audience helps you manage tone and style, but the messages you deliver should also be managed depending on audience. Personalise your messaging instead of going down the ‘one size fits all’ route as different messages will be important to different members.
A tick-box approach might see you sending one uniform communication to all members because you have to and considering it a job well done. Go beyond that by sending tailored communications to members with messages specific and relevant to them.
Not sure how to get to know your audience more? Gather feedback from your members (even a handful of them) and pay attention to all the measurable statistics you have at your disposal!

3) Keep it simple
Keep language and key messages as simple as possible. You might be a pensions expert with years’ worth of knowledge and pockets overflowing with all the pensions acronyms in the world, but remember to stop and ask yourself whether your members need to know it all. If the answer is no, cut it. If the answer is yes, simplify it.

Keeping it simple is about making your members’ job easy. If you want to get their attention and make sure to avoid the pitfalls of the Chair’s Statement, don’t try covering too much in one communication. It’s not about how many boxes you can tick with one print run or webpage. If a member never opens your communication because of its intimidating length, or doesn’t get past the first paragraph due to its complexity, you’ve really ticked no boxes at all.

4) Know your aims
Know exactly what you want individual communications to achieve. If you’re clear on exactly what you want members to know and think, and what you want them to do after reading a communication they are much more likely to hit the mark, with members much more likely to take informed action where needed.
If you’re tasked with releasing a communication to tick a statutory box, think about how you want your members to respond. Make your intentions clear and don’t aim to do too much all at once. Give your aims some thought and your members might too!

There will always be statutory tick-box exercises to deal with but the industry must go above and beyond the this approach, to engage with members in a meaningful way that works for them and helps them maximise the value they achieve from their pension.

 Megan Mason, Communication Consultant, at Gallagher