Communications is a critical capability in the pension industry
Pensions must understand and invest in this (sometimes invisible) work
Pensions and pension investment boards face meaningful challenges: complex stakeholder ecosystems where participants perspectives can differ dramatically; increasing transparency and pressure on performance, cost, and social issues; complicated operating environments across investments and member service; and real-time information sharing across a proliferation of forums and channels. In this context of uncertainty, we at Fuse believe the discipline of communications is emerging as a critical capability in the pension industry – and an area of opportunity and innovation.
Currently, communications approaches, tools, and outcomes vary across the industry. This disparity led us ask, how might we gather and share insight into pensions’ communications practices to elevate the capability and its impact?
We invited nine Canadian pension investment boards and administrators to participate in a communications survey and interview. We paired this research with an audit of public-facing communications activity and a survey of more than 1000 Canadians with workplace pension plans that included questions about their pension communications. We filtered the rich data set resulting from these research activities through the lens of a public sector communication framework to understand:
Objectives: what does an organization want to accomplish?
Outputs: what tangible communications goods are produced?
Outtakes: what learning results from communications activities?
Outcomes: what changes are measured in target audiences?
The result is a robust quantitative and qualitative view of the capability in the pension industry today that highlights the often-invisible infrastructure and effort that communication requires – and the value it delivers.
We’ve written a full report, The Invisible Work: Communications as a Capability in the Pension Industry, that explores the opportunity for communications strategy, compares priorities and positioning, and provides a view of how participating firms are organized and operate. It includes external perspectives from experts in communications planning, crisis management, legal communication, and social media. We conducted this research to empower pension communications leaders to make informed decisions as they modernize their operations and scale their impact – within their organizations, with their stakeholders and in the pension industry broadly.
Our findings from this work lead us to encourage pension communications leaders to consider the following:
Set your strategy. A clear, compelling, and integrated set of choices on where communications will play and how it will win is a foundational element of a successful capability. Is there a strategy team in your organization? If so, find ways to work together. Choose tactics that tie directly to your strategic goals, and KPIs that measure their impact.
Study your stakeholders. Communications must talk to customers – and listen to what they tell us. Use quantitative and qualitative research, surveys, and feedback to engage with stakeholders, informing and validating strategic choices.
Focus for impact. Triangulate between mandate, stakeholder prioritization, and capacity to ensure communications is focused on the right things, at the right time – this is how communications can begin to get proactive. Do not neglect issues and crisis management, because an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
Leverage enterprise technology efforts. Communications-specific technology can be expensive, low priority or overkill for the pension context. But broader digital transformation is happening! Get involved with enterprise initiatives to ensure communications-relevant functionality and data are delivered.
Encourage bravery. Communications has an incredible opportunity to help pension organizations overcome their fear of the new. Experiment, pilot, test and learn; the industry’s low engagement and awareness metrics mean there is nowhere to go but up.
Communications is so much more than its artifacts: to each of the pension communications leaders who took the time to participate in this research, contributing your experience and perspective to the evolution of your discipline, thank you – and we see you.
For others interested in learning more about this research, we’d be happy to share our perspectives: please get in touch at email@example.com.