By: Chuck Gillespie, CEO

Okay, the title of this article is a loaded question. You need a good program to drive change, but without a great communications strategy to connect your programs to your audience, you will never get started. Personally, I have stated for many years that if I had to choose between a great program or a great communications strategy, I would select the communications strategy 100% of the time. Why? You can always change the programs.

National Wellness Institute has spent decades advocating for the competencies of wellness. As we finalize the peer review and analysis of our wellness competency research, it is only fitting to begin sharing the observations. These observations may be “simple” aspects to digest because we have gone deep with our study, but to accomplish them will demand good training, a support network, a lot of focus on leading the change, and an outstanding communication plan. It is not going to be easy.

Over the next five months, I will provide a series of thought statements that seek to help trigger practical, skilled, meaningful, and capable approaches you must consider, as you seek to deliver a high-level wellness strategy at work, at home, in your community, with your customers, or for yourself.

Last month we began the conversation with “wellness needs to take a Whole-person and Systems Approach.” You can find that article here.

Let’s add to the conversations with this statement: High-Level Wellness demands a strong communications strategy that connects your audience to the initiative.

 Chapter 3 of the Wellness Champion Workbook, “Leading the Change Through Comprehensive High-Level Wellness”, dedicates multiple pages on the importance of a communications strategy and steps to ensure your message can connect to everyone. The research pointed out vividly that communication and connecting to your audience could not be a one-size-fits-all message– just like a comprehensive wellness initiative. Ensure that you are using all available media and technology possible to support your wellness initiative, because the people within your audience are not looking for the same result. Your audience is diverse and seek different tools and modalities. Recognize this and you will be more successful in leading the change.

A diverse population requires your ability to use appropriate messaging that attend to the health literacy abilities of the target population(s). Think multicultural in this regard, and this is why NWI developed our High-Level Wellness Through Multicultural Competency course. You also need to think about how connecting one-on-one versus as a group shifts the mindset of everyone who hears the message. Remember the power of connecting to peers in this regard.

It is essential that you utilize quantitative and qualitative data to continually evaluate the quality and effectiveness of programs in meeting established objectives and outcomes. Data drives decision making, so make certain you are measuring what matters. Chapter 4 of “Leading the Change” goes into detail on how data drives decisions.

Know your stakeholders and articulate to key stakeholders the value of wellness to the individual and the organization’s mission, purpose, and strategic plan. Understand their interests, learn as much as you can about what your wellness initiative can do to solve a pain point for them, and then:

  • Communicate results to key stakeholders using quantitative and qualitative data
  • Establish collaborative relationships within and across key stakeholders and interdisciplinary teams to promote sustainable health and wellness practices that meet long-term personal, organizational, and/or community goals
  • Recognize the influence of organizational development, leadership, and culture on individual wellness

Connecting and communicating your message is both an art and science. It is also one of the most imperative needs of your wellness strategy that may not get enough attention or time committed to it. Most of the top wellness thought leaders and consultants state that a major chunk of your budget for wellness should go toward communicating the message.

I have always encouraged that your wellness committee/task force/leadership team/champions should include a public relations person, an IT person, and an analytics person to help you meet the goal of communicating and connecting to your audience.

Where are you on communicating and connecting to your people? If you say you need help, I applaud you. If you say you are doing well but can always do better, I applaud you. If you say you are doing great and do not need to do more, I will tell you that you are going to fail, very soon. That is how important this is—you will never be done evolving your message…ever.