Topic: Employee Benefits Communication

Author(s), Title and Publication

Freitag, A. R., & Picherit-Duthler, G. (2004). Employee benefits communication: Proposing a PR-HR cooperative approach. Public Relations Review, 30(4), 475–482.


In employee benefits communication, organizations often offer benefit options and try to inform and help employees make wise choices so they remain satisfied, motivated and productive. This study identified the best approaches to improving employee benefits communication by surveying HR managers of 155 member organizations in the Chamber of Commerce of a large southeastern city (survey 1), and 226 staff members in a major regional headquarters office of a Fortune 100 financial institution (survey 2). The surveys addressed benefits communication management, communication channels and their effectiveness, and employees’ satisfaction with the programs offered.

Results of survey 1 demonstrated that responsibility for benefits communication resided primarily with HR departments; only 4% of the respondents reported full PR involvement in benefits communication. Health/medical insurance programs were the most prevalent benefit offered by organizations (100%). Managers primarily used traditional printed materials but increasingly use on-line approaches. Despite the increasing reliance on Internet-and Intranet-based approaches, however, managers still viewed individual counseling, group training, and printed materials as the most effective communication techniques. They used Web-based applications for little beyond provision of basic information about benefits.

Survey 2, which focused on health/medical benefits communication in a single, large organization, underscored the importance of benefits to recruiting, retention and motivation. Unlike managers in study 1, employees in study 2 preferred communication methods with distance (e.g., printed materials, websites, and telephone hotlines) to one-on-one counseling. Employees reported a very positive view of benefits and of the organization’s efforts in the communication. However, they were less effusive about the quality of the communication materials, giving the organization’s Intranet benefit site relatively low marks for its effectiveness.

Implications for Practice

Employee benefits communication might be improved if: 1) PR managers cooperate with HR managers and take a more active role in benefits communications; 2) organizations communicate with employees via a rich mix of channels–print materials, websites, group information sessions, benefits fairs, and telephone hotlines; and 3) organizations improve the content and presentation of their Intranet benefit sites to make the sites more meaningful for employees.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract, purchase full article) (rent to read full article, sign up for free trial)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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One thought on “Employee benefits communication: Proposing a PR-HR cooperative approach

  1. The overlap of responsibilities between HR and PR when it comes to employee communications and engagement has been long debated, just like the overlap between PR and marketing when it comes to consumer engagement. While HR and internal PR serve similar purposes such as building quality organization-employee relationships, boosting employee loyalty, satisfaction, and engagement, they approach employee related problems from different perspectives. HR is more action oriented and deals a lot with policies, procedures whist PR is more communication oriented and concerns mainly with communication channels, messages, strategies and tactics.

    Regardless of the difference, given HR and PR have a common ground, I agree with the authors that a PR-HR cooperative approach should be undertaken to fully utilize the resources within the organization and maximize the effectiveness of employee communications and engagement. Such a cooperative approach is not only helpful for employee benefits communications, but also for other issues such as workplace safety communication, work-life balance/conflicts, manager-employee relationship cultivation, etc.

    To make this happen, a collaborative culture should be fostered within the organization. HR and PR managers should recognize their functional similarities and differences and be willing to collaborate, capitalize on their own advantages, and complement the other function. Additionally, top management should create opportunities for HR and PR to have dialogues around related issues and encourage their collaboration and joint programs.

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