Distribute the Communication Materials
This information helps you think through the following issues:
- When is the best time to distribute materials?
- What communication format or formats will you use?
- How will you publicize your communication campaign?
- How will you reinforce your message?
Develop your timeline
To develop your timeline, ask:
Is there a specific event or certain time of the year around which you want to plan your communications?
Employees of one organization that used the Toolkit expressed interest in receiving information about health care quality during open enrollment. Other organizations planned campaigns during “slow times” of the year to increase the focus on the campaign. Another idea is to include information about choosing quality health care in orientation packets for new employees or members.
Try to avoid overwhelming your audience with too much information at one time. You may want to stagger the distribution of materials or plan ways to build on your communications over time. This also allows you to reinforce key messages and remind employees or members about the resources you have provided.
How long will it take to plan and implement the campaign?
Work backwards from your launch date to determine about how long it will take you to plan and implement your communication campaign. Allow time for things like internal review of your communication plan and materials.
Also consider your organization’s capacities. For example, some organizations have found that launching a communication campaign during open enrollment can be challenging due to competing demands on staff time. If you do plan to distribute materials during open enrollment, allow plenty of lead time to plan your campaign.
Choose your communication format(s)
The materials you distribute should be easy for your audience to find and use at the time they are likely to need them. When selecting your communication format (or formats), think about how your audience prefers to get information. Also ask:
Which communication formats allow you to reach the most people?
If you have the resources, using a variety of communication formats can help you reach more people. Think about when and how your intended audience can access the materials. For some organizations, putting materials on a company website provides convenient access. For others, having the materials on an internal website means that employees can only access materials from work, not when they are at home.
Which formats are most likely to be useful?
Consider how and when you want people to use the materials you are providing. For example, if you are using materials from Topic 1 (Tips for your health care appointment), it may be useful to provide hard copies of the materials and encourage people to take the materials with them when they visit the doctor.
Appropriate communication format(s) might include:
- Develop electronic versions of the materials and post them on your organization’s website or distribute them by email.
- Develop hard copy materials and mail them to people’s homes or distribute them during company meetings, health fairs, or other gatherings.
- Develop an oral presentation to give in person, or to record and make available as a webinar. (See the box below for a sample presentation with handouts for employees.)
- Incorporate information from the Communication Materials into newsletter articles.
- Incorporate information from the Communication Materials into short emails and send an email on a different topic each week.
- Create a series of short “information tips” to send by text message or social media (e.g., Twitter or Facebook).
Publicize your communication efforts
Simply making materials available is not enough. You also need to let your employees or members know the materials are available and encourage their use.
Organizations that actively work to drive people to their materials experience far greater success. You could publicize your communication campaign through
- Newsletter articles
- Employee fairs
- Lunch-and-learns or other group presentations
- Messages from company leadership
- Personal communications from employee champions or supervisors
- Social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter)
- Message boards
If possible, use a variety of channels to spread the word about your communication campaign. One large health care purchaser promoted their campaign using newsletter articles, posters, a conference session, and social media.
When publicizing the materials, make sure you let employees or members know:
- What the materials are and where to find them
- Why you are distributing them
- Why and how you hope employees or members will use them
Reinforce the message
For many people, using evidence-based health care requires thinking about their health and health care in a new way. It means assuming more personal responsibility and developing new skills, such as speaking up and asking questions of their health care providers or seeking health information on their own. People often have concerns about these new responsibilities and behaviors—perhaps making it hard to act on the information they get.
To address this reluctance, it is especially important to seek out ways to reinforce and build on the messages and information you provide.
- Look for opportunities to work with health plans and/or health care providers, including pharmacies and nurse help lines, to promote and support the messages you are communicating about using evidence. You may also want to coordinate your efforts with those of other organizations—health departments, unions, business coalitions, advocacy groups, and community-based organizations. For example, one health plan coordinated its efforts with a health care purchaser to ensure that employees would get consistent messages from both organizations.
- Build on external events to demonstrate the relevance of the Toolkit’s messages. For example, if the local media report on the publication of quality comparisons for local hospitals, use the Communication Materials about health care quality standards and comparisons to help employees or members learn more.
- Consider how your organization’s benefits strategy supports or undermines your messages and what you can do reinforce the messages and drive changes in behavior. One employer coupled its communication campaign with efforts to improve access to health care by offering incentives to encourage appropriate care and use of resources.