Select and customize the communication materials


The information on this page helps you decide which Communication Materials to use. It also provides specific guidance about how to adapt the materials and get feedback from your audience.

Decide which materials to use

The Communication Materials include 16 documents organized into four topic areas. You can use all of the materials or select the ones that best address your communication goals.

To select the materials you are going to use, review them and consider:

  • How do the materials relate to and support your communication goals?
  • How do the materials relate to and support what you want your audience to know and do?
  • Which messages in the Communication Materials are likely to be most pertinent and helpful?
  • How do the materials fit with other information you’re currently communicating to your employees or members (for example, about benefits design, health care quality, or being an informed health care consumer)?

To learn about how other organizations have used the Communication Materials, go to Profiles of Toolkit Users.

Advice from users of the Toolkit includes the following:

Start small.

If you have multiple communication goals, choose one or two to focus on initially. An incremental approach allows you to focus your communications, assess the process and results, and identify ways to build on and improve your efforts. It also prevents your audience from being overwhelmed with too much information at one time.

Begin with the materials in Topic Area 1 (Tips for getting good quality care) and Topic Area 2 (Using the internet to find health information).

These materials meet common needs and are easy for your audience to understand. They help pave the way for later communications on more difficult topics, such as understanding health care costs or getting the right amount of health care. This is particularly important if your organization is new to communicating with employees and members about health care quality or evidence-based health care.

Revisit your goals often.

From time to time throughout your campaign, revisit your goals and the Communication Materials to think about how you can build on and reinforce the messages and information you’ve provided.

Customize the materials

The Communication Materials are designed so that you can customize them as much or as little as you’d like.

Option 1: Use the materials “as is”

If you would like to use the materials without modifying the main content or design:

1. Delete or customize the yellow highlighted sections.

Make any edits in the Microsoft® Word versions of the documents. To compare the formatting of your document to the original, download the PDF version.

Be sure to test and update links to website addresses (URLs). The links in the documents are current as of May 2012.

2. Replace the sample photographs.

The materials contain sample photos from a low-cost stock photo company. For legal reasons, you must pay for the sample photos if you would like to use them. Find out how to order the sample photos.

If you choose not to use the sample photos, add your own photos or graphics to personalize the documents and add visual appeal. When selecting photos or graphics, follow these guidelines:

  • Photographs and graphics should be clear, simple, and uncluttered.
  • People in the photographs should reflect the diversity of your population.
  • Photographs and graphics should include poses, body language, and facial expressions that are appropriate to the message and situation they illustrate.

3. Include an acknowledgment of the source of the materials.

Add the following statement: “These materials were adapted from the Communication Toolkit that was developed by the American Institutes for Research with funding from the California HealthCare Foundation.”

Option 2: Adapt the materials

Organizations can choose to adapt the Communication Materials by customizing the content or design. Many organizations that have used the Toolkit adapted the materials to suit their organization’s voice and audience’s needs. For example:

  • One large purchaser condensed the Communication Materials into a set of one-page tips, each of which had two sections: What You Should Know and What You Can Do.
  • A public employer created a series of 15 one-page “tip” and “question” sheets. The tip sheets were a short summary of key points from each of the four topic areas covered in the Communication Materials. The question sheets contained questions to ask in various situations, such as choosing a health care provider, deciding on a medical treatment, and using a prescription.
  • Another employer incorporated elements of the Communication Materials into condition-specific communications (for example, diabetes). Future plans include developing a newsletter with information from the Communication Materials on preventive care.

To learn more about how the Communication Materials have been adapted, go to Profiles of Toolkit Users.

Guidelines for adapting the materials

The Communication Materials have been tested extensively to ensure that people can understand and use them. Although you are free to adapt the materials in whatever way you like, it’s important that your adapted materials reflect the key development and design principles of the Communication Materials. This helps ensure your materials are understandable, well received, and effective.

Use the Design and Development Checklist to assess whether your materials follow the principles underlying the Communication Materials.

The checklist items are organized around these questions:

  • Do the materials clearly state what your organization is doing to support employees or members in working toward a common goal?
  • Are the key messages clear?
  • Are the materials action-oriented with specific, concrete action items?
  • Do the materials include examples to make them personally relevant to employees or members?
  • Do the materials explain difficult or unfamiliar concepts in ways that are easy to understand?
  • Is the formatting simple, approachable, and easy to skim?

Get feedback on your materials

Getting feedback doesn’t have to be complicated. A small amount of time spent getting feedback from your audience on the front end offers several benefits:

  • You learn what works well and what you need to improve to communicate more effectively.
  • You attract your audience’s interest and let them know that you care about their perspective, which helps build trust.
  • Your audience feels more invested in the outcome.

Because of these benefits, the feedback process typically saves you time and money in the long run and makes your communication efforts more effective.

Learn more about how to get feedback on your materials.