A framework for communications…

HomeBlogA framework for communications…

Did you read moving from inertia to engagement? How do we move from systemic inertia to engaging pension members? A clear place to start is with communications – and there are a number of strategic approaches that we can use to build a communications framework that works towards engagement.

Understanding where you are now is an excellent place to start. Define what you mean by engagement and how you will measure it. A standardised industry approach is idealistic. It’s also completely necessary to help inform good future policy decisions – IMHO!

Think about the journey for your members

If we look at kids learning mathematics as an example – for most people, their understanding of pensions is about as good as a 4-year-old’s ability to understand multiplication! Teaching starts with the basics to build a solid foundation of number recognition and place value. Then it develops with addition, subtraction, multiplication, division… you get the drift. It’s the same for pensions – you can’t go hell for leather on basis points, costs and charges, value for money, net zero and projections without a member first understanding some key basics. Such as their pension is invested, they can’t access it until they reach a certain age, they can and should be getting tax relief on their contributions. So map out the content, start with the basics, build strong, repeatable foundation messages and expand on them.

Develop a communications framework that those messages can sit against. I think the standard marketing funnel (used to drive sales) can be applied… and adapted! We don’t need to sell them anything – they’ve already bought – but probably don’t know that! We need to take them on a journey to active engagement. Remember your members will all start at different stages of the journey, so your communications framework needs to have a dynamic overlay. You’ll need to get to know your audience, then segment them. You’ll also need to measure responses and actions to inform ongoing refinement.

Here’s my approach to the adapted sales funnel…


Whilst your brand is obviously important (what marketer worth their sort wouldn’t bang on about brand?). The biggest challenge you have is that you are talking about pensions. Of the 20,000 plus messages we’re exposed to daily, for most people, pensions isn’t one that’s going to cut through the noise. Why?

  • Pensions are inherently complex – from UFPLS to AVCs, DB to DC – we speak in a language that is alien to most people. When I first arrived in pensions from travel over 15 years ago – I thought a pension was a payment you got when you stopped working. I had no idea you had to do something to a ‘pot’ of money to get that income! I hold on to that whenever I am writing for members… we take so much knowledge as a given!
  • Pensions aren’t built on trust – Robert Maxwell, Carillion, BHS – bad news is memorable – and it sells! Add increasing pension ages, removal of S2P, WASPIs, to name a few – a series of changes to pension policy that have affected people negatively and that all add to the erosion of trust. We’re looking at awareness – but this isn’t just creating awareness for a new idea. It’s dispelling one idea and replacing it with another!
  • Pension communications are long, complicated, boring and detached – blame it on compliance, blame it on a risk adverse approach, blame it on the technical nature of the product… Whatever the reason – it has got to change. You can still be a serious, professional brand and speak in the first person, with short sentences and simple language.

So, start small – with bitesize pieces of information. Use real people. Answer real questions. Tell stories with your communications and make them easy to read and understand.


Make pensions relevant. Whether that’s with an ESG focused message that aligns to their beliefs positively (rather than terrifies them through fear), or a retirement holiday calculator. Make your members’ pensions about them. Create connections. Bring this alien concept to life and make your communications relevant to their life, both now and in the future.

There are plenty of amazing examples of the effectiveness of storytelling in communications. It’s powerful because it makes the content personal and relatable – this is a process called neural coupling. Our brains do it automatically, it’s wired into humans – even ancient cave paintings tell stories. They are so good because they essentially mean we experience the message instead of just consuming it.   


Put members at the heart of your engagement strategy. Think about what steps they need to take to build a happy retirement. It’s very easy to be driven only by a commercial objective such increasing AUM. But if we really want to change the perceptions of pensions and solve the engagement crisis in the long-term we must start with trust. This may mean that we’re building a lot of content that doesn’t necessarily drive an immediate action. But consistently delivering useful, meaningful and relevant content over months and years will deliver results. This is not a quick fix.

For each action that needs to be taken you will probably be sending several different communications all focused on one outcome! This is a complete 180 to the current ‘oh let’s add that message to the annual statement’ approach! Is it any wonder people think our communications are complicated?! Stick to one message and action per communication!

A framework for communications gives a solid start

Working within a communications framework like this to build your customer journey is a great start…but we can do more! There are tried and tested techniques that can influence behaviours…

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