The battle of communications

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Pension Scams: Making the message to members clear.

Pension scams aren’t new, yet we’re still fully focused on tackling them. Why? Because we’re losing the battle of communications. Across any industry, success is not about the superiority of a product or service. It doesn’t necessarily matter how good it it. It’s how well you sell it – merely a battle of perception. And the scammers are winning.

An estimated £30m has been lost to scammers since 2017. And the continuous threat of scams growing in sophistication is very real.

There are multiple initiatives working in tandem to look at the whole picture of scams – from operational protocol to trustee knowledge, understanding and power. However, like so many changes to anything pension related – there isn’t a single, straightforward solution. The complex nature of our products and systems means that trying to prevent pension scams is an enormous, multi-faceted project.   

Two sides of the same fight

When it comes to stopping scams we need a two pronged attack. We need robust processes and to raise awareness with members.

When member engagement and understanding of pensions is as low as it is – we absolutely have to be making changes to our processes to protect our members. We should continue to make it harder for scammers to wreak havoc with people’s retirement savings, the consequences of scams are devastating. Not to mention the ongoing mistrust in pensions that it fuels.

The key to scammers success

There is no secret formula to what the scammers are doing – successful communications follow a number of logical and predictable steps:

  1. understanding the audience, what problem you are solving for them
  2. creating engaging content, focussing on benefits
  3. having an incentivised offer
  4. delivered through channels familiar and trusted by the audience
  5. continuous re-targeting and follow up

Ultimately, they are doing better marketing communications. They are winning the battle of communications. How? By creating content that resonates. Sharp designs, clear language and concise call to actions. Stuffing a generic flyer in an annual statement is no match for a targeted marketing campaign.

A tricky balance

I’m a fan of making communications scheme and member specific. Targeted messages are always more impactful because they can be clear and concise. However, as an industry we don’t hold the trust of the general public. Pensions aren’t synonymous with security as it is – so it’s important there isn’t a sudden barrage of pension scam headlines creating fear and doubt in a scatter gun approach.  We must work together on these communications and share results, insights and best practice.  This will help to create consistency and reinforce recall without detrimentally impacting trust.

For trustees, providers and administrators making The Pensions Regulator’s pledge to combat scams they will have a determined focus on member communications some will look to utilise different approaches and go above and beyond the minimum. Excellent. As long as scams and pensions aren’t the only words remembered!

Forewarned is forearmed

We want to raise awareness and provide members with knowledge and simple steps they can easily recall and follow to prevent a scam – without causing alarm. There are tried and tested methods that help with this:

Simplicity – of both language and idea will help your message to be understood and digested. Remove any jargon, easier said than done. We know pensions, the risks and the ‘obvious’ steps. But your members probably don’t. Go back to basics.

Credibility – of your source and story. Create this by using authentic case studies and details which will help with recall. You don’t need to jump through GDPR hoops to re-tell an anonymised story, but if you are able to have real life stories, ideally positive, that are concisely told they will resonate.

Achievability – of your instructions or call to action. Don’t make steps complex, time consuming or unachievable. You can layer messages to help with this.

Memorability – of the message. Use tried and tested literary devices – acronyms, the rule of three or alliteration. Creating a concrete and repetitive reference point to your message will make it memorable.

Using all of these elements – here’s a handy flyer we made earlier. And you’ll have spotted the subtle SCAM acronym in the steps above!

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