Benefits Boost: Is Your Benefits Information Accessible on The Go?

While many think of Substack as only a place to grow a subscriber business, it may be that it works well for plumbers along with Pulitzer Prize winners.

Sometimes trends are more than just, well, trendy. Five years ago, in a newsletter for our financial advisor readers, we discussed the trend of Podcasts and how it might show a change not in how people were consuming information, but what they were consuming information about. “If you take the news of the growth in podcasts solely as one based on advertising – as in a change in marketing platforms – you miss the bigger revolution. If, I’ve said before, good marketing marries message to method, it isn’t just that your ads or marketing efforts should change to fit podcasting platforms. Instead, the bigger revolution is in the value of research and stories. As one commentator said, Millennials seek out podcasts on reality and non-fiction. They love news and fully fleshed out stories that are serialized.”[1] We’ve also written articles for plan sponsors on how to make internal websites and information about plan details easy for participants to access. That’s why the migration to Substack of many authors and others caught our attention.

Substack May Change How We Intake Information

At first, we thought that the interest in Substack was maybe just confined to our social groups. But then we noticed more and more businesses moving to the platform. Entrepreneurs and more established businesses are finding that migrating email lists into Substack’s platform is easy.[2] They also like how the platform allows marketing folks to have multiple newsletters.[3] While many think of Substack as only a place to grow a subscriber business, it may be that it works well for plumbers along with Pulitzer Prize winners.

But it isn’t just the writers that enjoy Substack. The platform allows readers to read the newsletters in a blog-like format and interact with other readers through comments and notes. Its growth in readers is exponential.[4] That ease of reading and display may be something plan sponsors should take note of. If their participants are becoming more used to reading newsletters in a simple format with easy graphics, they may start to disfavor older versions of mobile websites. We also know that more and more Americans are looking to use their phones less and use social media even more less.[5] For those using Substack, a newsletter has a finite quality. It isn’t something that leads to endless scrolling.

Format for Ease

An analysis of what works well on Substack shows four key themes. These themes can be used for any marketing content, whether it is an internal newsletter for plan participants, or other material. First, Substack has frequent breaks. Most authors make use of Substack’s formatting that allows for pull quotes in between paragraphs and easy graphics placement. Whereas websites designed with WordPress or Square can make inserting graphics equivalent to obtaining a PhD in astrophysics, Substack is simpler. And the result is that readers are becoming used to long newsletters broken up by visuals. This development may help plan sponsors provide electronic information to their plan participants, as some of those notices are lengthy.

Using graphics or videos at frequent intervals can also help when the information in the transmission is dense or difficult to take in. “Images and videos can enhance your web content by adding visual interest, emotion, and information.”[6] Adding visuals that help calm readers can help with retirement plan information. As we’ve mentioned before, the colors blue and green add a sense of calm to a reader. Brighter colors like yellow and fuchsia can add energy to denser topics.

Second, what works well on Substack, and what readers may become more reliant on, is the stripped-down simplicityof the format. Substack works well on mobile devices because its formatting options are, well, slim. There aren’t a great number of font options, and font colors are limited as well. That makes it easier for readers to navigate. Simple text punctuated regularly by graphics or pull quotes is easy to load and takes a load off the reader.

Third, many suggest that headings help readers break up content. Many readers tend to skim first, then dive back into sections they find more relevant. Headings and strong topic sentences help those readers navigate longer pieces. This is also true for information that a reader may need to refer to multiple times, such as eligibility requirements for benefits.

Finally, when it comes to making the information easier to navigate, many suggest having both internal and external links. Internal links point readers to places within a document where they may want to dive deeper. This is often used in frequently asked questions (FAQ) sections. But in documents that have portions that relate to some but not all plan participants, internal links may help them move through a document more easily. It may also help them to continue reading a document and not miss important information. External links may help readers find definitions or requirements from other sources, like the Department of Labor or a state agency.







These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.

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