Creating an experience with ESOP communication

Natalie Hill, Consultant, Principal®

It’s late summer, the crickets are singing and I’m taking in all the oxygen-rich air while riding along the countryside. The wheat fields are changing to brilliant gold and I even taste an occasional bug (bleh). It’s all part of an experience.

ESOP communication should be an experience, too. Simply holding meetings and sending out PDFs are not the same kind of experience that I’m talking about—one that’s simply unforgettable. Treating your communication like an experience can help with better understanding and connection to the individual and your culture. Not to mention it makes it more interesting!

I say everything ESOP-related should become aspects of an overall employee communication that appeals to the senses and connects to the benefit plan.

Here’s one way to start—the annual ESOP meeting. To make it more of an experience, here are some things to consider.


What’s being heard? What and how are you saying it to capture and hold everyone’s attention? Has it been rehearsed or is it off-the-cuff? Is there any music playing during parts of the presentation? What’s the overall tone? What employees hear can alter the mood, feeling and overall effect.


Are you filling the room with visuals or opting to use a stunning, single image to make a point? Visuals should be meaningful and impactful—especially since they communicate without words. Beyond the visuals…what about motion, color and lighting in the room? All of those elements can affect emotions and have a role in how information is perceived.


What does an ESOP taste like anyway…BBQ ribs? Food for thought: healthier options can improve meeting productivity and provide more opportunities to connect the food to the ESOP.


Do something different for statement time. Look employees in the eyes, shake their hand, and say thank you when handing them their statement. Only a personal connection can bring people closer and really convey feeling.


When holding an ESOP meeting, does the room smell of freshly baked cookies, citrus, or vanilla? A good smell is an effortless way to bring positive vibes to a meeting. Hey, even Play-doh® has a trademarked scent. Why not try it?

Appealing to all the senses can help make the ESOP more meaningful, above and beyond the actual words you use. All the senses work together to help create a more complete picture. When we create communication, it’s with intent and purpose—visuals, messaging, tone and delivery play parts in the overall, participant experience. The more senses it appeals to, the more enriched that experience can be!

The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment advice or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements.

Insurance products and plan administrative services provided through Principal Life Insurance Co., a member of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.

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