Identify your communication goals


Each organization that uses the Communication Toolkit has to decide for itself what it wants to accomplish. Taking the time to plan your use of the Communication Materials helps ensure the success of your effort and makes the best use of your organization’s resources.

The information on this page helps you think through key issues:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do you want them to know and do?
  • What are your organization’s goals?
  • What challenges are you likely to face?
  • What can you do to achieve good results?

What you need to know about your audience

The Communication Materials are designed so that you can adapt them as much or as little as needed for your audience. Before working with the materials, it helps to be clear on several things:

Who are you trying to reach?

Do you want to communicate with all of your employees or members, or are you targeting certain groups? Will you reach out only to employees or members, or to their families as well? Does your audience include other organizations – for example, unions that may represent your employees?

What are the important characteristics of your audience

What characteristics are relevant to their understanding and use of the information in the materials? Learn how characteristics of your audience can affect your communications.

How is your audience likely to respond to the messages you want to communicate?

How has your audience responded to previous efforts to convey information about their health, health care quality, or the use of evidence in health care? One thing to remember is that the topics addressed in the Communication Materials can be challenging for people. For example, previous research has found that many people:

  • Do not fully understand or agree with the concepts and goals of evidence-based health care.
  • Regard evidence-based health care as unnecessary or irrelevant to them.
  • Are suspicious of employers’ and health plans’ motives in communicating about evidence-based health care.
  • Feel overwhelmed by what they think evidence-based health care is demanding of them.

To learn more about these findings, go to:

What are the information needs of your audience?

What information does your audience already have? What information do they want? How does your audience prefer to get information from you (for example, online, in hard copy format, or via oral presentations)?

One of the best ways to find out about your audience’s information needs is to ask them. Several organizations that used the Communication Materials conducted brief surveys or talked with their employees and members to find out what information people wanted to know and how they wanted to receive it. Many of the organizations that thought they knew their audience well were surprised by what they learned.

Download an Employee / Member Survey: Distribute this survey to your employees or members to better understand their information needs.

What you need to know to develop your goals

What are your organization’s goals for a communication campaign built around the Communication Toolkit? What specific actions do you want your audience to take? What changes would you like to see in their behavior? What do they need to do to make these changes?

To move you towards these “big picture” goals, start by answering the following questions.

How do the Communication Materials fit with your other communications and benefits strategies?

One major purchaser of health benefits regarded the Communication Materials as a way to reinforce existing communications and messages about the importance of being an engaged health care consumer in a branded action plan called “Be Well and Well Informed.” To learn more about how the Communication Materials have been adapted, go to Profiles of Toolkit Users.

What do you eventually want your audience to know about their health and health care?

Your goals may be related to recent or upcoming changes in your benefits plan, programs you are trying to promote (such as support with disease management), or health issues that are prevalent in your audience. Think about what your audience knows now and what misconceptions you need to address.

What can you do to support your audience?

It’s difficult for people to make changes in their behavior, particularly when you are asking them to do hard and unfamiliar things. Consider ways you can encourage and support changes. Possibilities include providing links to reliable, trustworthy health information or holding seminars to walk people through comparative quality information on local providers.

What has been your experience with different communication formats and channels?

Because the concepts and information in the Communication Materials may be new to your audience, using effective and trusted media and communication formats and channels is particularly important.

What challenges can you anticipate?

What are the barriers to the changes in knowledge or behavior you want to see? How do you expect your messages to be perceived by your audience? For example, one health plan that used the Toolkit recognized that getting beyond the skepticism of its members was a critical component of their communication strategy.

What can you do to facilitate changes in knowledge and behavior?

Consider how you can have an impact on barriers by creating incentives (for example, financial incentives such as eliminating co-payments for primary care visits and increasing them for certain ER visits).

What results are you anticipating?

If people make the changes you are asking them to make, what do you hope will happen? What are the expected benefits to your employees or members? What are the expected benefits to your organization? Be clear about anticipated outcomes and benefits to establish trust with your audience. Outlining your anticipated results also helps you set incremental goals to track progress and assess whether you are moving in the right direction.