Custom cartoons will engage your employees

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by Denise Reynolds

Approaching many human resource topics armed only with words isn’t much fun. But arm yourself with a cast of cartoon characters and you’ll look forward to delivering key messages about benefits, wellness and just about any HR topic.

I work with all kinds of organizations, developing innovative and engaging cartoon campaigns that cover a broad spectrum of topics:
• Health and welfare benefits
• Retirement plans
• Wellness
• Retirement/financial planning
• Safety
• Policies and procedures
• General HR messages

It’s routine for us to work on benefits or wellness campaigns for several organizations at a time. While many of our clients may address similar topics, the characters and scenarios we create in our cartoons are customized. That’s one of the best things about the work we do: nothing is “off the shelf.”

Every client gets cartoon characters and cartoon campaigns that match their organization. So, cartoon panels about retirement programs, medical benefits, safety initiatives, or heart-healthy exercise will vary by organization – from the characters, scenario, style of humor, to the tips/advice that are offered along with the cartoon panel.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples that focus on Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services. While both organizations – ACRT, Inc. and the Greater Cleveland RTA – want employees to take advantage of the company-sponsored program, each had a different key message.

For ACRT, the EAP-themed cartoon appeared in January – when employees typically fret about the bills that follow holiday spending. They wanted employees to understand financial planning and budgeting services are available.

ACRT, Inc's cartoon characters promote the Employee Assistance Program in this January 2013 panel.

ACRT, Inc’s cartoon characters promote the Employee Assistance Program in this January 2013 panel.

At RTA, the cartoon promotes the EAP’s counseling services that help employees work through stressful situations at home or work.

RTA's characters, Floyd and Harley, promote the EAP's counseling services.

RTA’s characters, Floyd and Harley, promote the EAP’s counseling services.

Each cartoon is accompanied with a brief summary or several bullet points to provide tips or additional details.

It’s fun to conjure up cartoon concepts for each client. My team of cartoonists and designers keep these objectives in mind as we develop our cartoon solutions:
• Keep the messages light-hearted and simple – the fewer the words, the better;
• Get the attention of the employees;
• Make them smile; and
• Be effective: deliver messages that raise awareness and understanding.

Curious about how cartoons and cartoon characters can work in your organization? Contact us at denise@otlcreativegroup.com or 216-407-4676. Visit our website at otlcreativegroup.com. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/otlcreativegroup.

Stay Tooned: In the next two weeks we’ll cover:
• Q&A Session with Cartoonist Jenny Campbell (Part 1)
• Q&A Session with Cartoonist Jenny Campbell (Part 2)
• Create an engaging cartoon character that fits your organization

Be caught off-guard…by cartooning.

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by Denise Reynolds

Cartoonists have a tough job. They have to surprise us every day.  We want them to catch us off-guard 365 days a year.

“Things that make us laugh grab us much more than the mundane.” says nationally-syndicated cartoonist Jenny Campbell (“Flo and Friends”). It might explain why we can’t remember what we had for dinner last night, but we can rattle off the punch line from a “Pearls Before Swine”, “Dilbert”, “Get Fuzzy” or “Non Sequitur” comic from earlier in the week.

“We move through this life wanting to be happily and unexpectedly surprised. When it actually happens, it’s such a joy,” Campbell says. We look forward to it happening again and again – and we turn to our favorite comic strips every day wanting to be caught off-guard. And we’re so happy when it happens that we often share the comic with a family member, friend or colleague.

What if organizations used that same approach in their employee communications? They’d get similar results – an employee audience caught off-guard by a cartoon campaign that features light-hearted humor, engaging cartoon characters delivering the company’s key messages.

Custom cartoon campaigns are innovative, fun and effective. They’re so different – so quick and easy to read – that employees notice them. No, I don’t recommend using cartoons to announce an upcoming acquisition or changes to your pension plan, but eye-catching characters are ideal for delivering those messages employees don’t want to read. You know the ones: health care benefits, retirement planning, wellness initiatives, safety programs, and policies and procedures.

I’ve spent nearly 20 years helping companies communicate with their employees. Sure, there were some great campaigns and a few communication awards along the way, but this thought was always in the back of my head, “If we’d put these messages into cartoons, I know people would really WANT to read them.”

One of my clients, a director of human resources at a manufacturing company, tried all types of communications to help employees understand the valuable benefits and wellness programs the company offered. It didn’t matter if it was a colorful brochure with photos, a brief email, or a detailed PowerPoint presentation, most employees wouldn’t read the materials. She wasn’t throwing in the towel, though. She wanted employees to understand their benefits, use them correctly, and take advantage of wellness activities. This HR director was willing to give cartoon mascots a shot at communicating with her employees.

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These weren’t just ordinary “off the shelf” cartoon characters. Through Jenny Campbell’s creative cartooning, several of the company’s products were “brought to life” for a 12-month cartoon campaign. While salaried employees received the panel via email, hourly employees paused for a few seconds to read the cartoon that appeared on the flat screen monitors throughout the plant. The cartoons have been successful and the campaign is in its third year – continuing to capture the attention of employees.

In fact, the cartoon characters have engaged employees to the point that:

  • They recognize that communication materials featuring one or more mascots gives them a “head’s up” that the contents are about benefits or wellness.
  • More employees are participating in wellness activities and the lunch-and-learn sessions that cover benefits.
  • Several employees thanked the HR director for providing information about the Employee Assistance Program. Some said that before they saw the cartoon panel explaining the services available through the EAP, they never knew they had this benefit.
  • Requests were made by employees to add an additional character to the team of mascots.
  • A group of employees printed out and laminated the mascot images – transforming them into Christmas ornaments that were used to decorate a Christmas tree at the plant.
  • A request was made to company executives to have cartoonist Jenny Campbell paint one of the cartoon mascots onto the side of a new machine that was being installed.

Our goal is to create cartoon characters who catch employees off-guard and engage them. It looks like the mascots are doing their job!