Obsessed as I am by Kylie and David Plarr,I got home last night just in time ,switched on Gogglebox and saw Workie’s walk in the park.
I have so far counted four people I know who like the DWP’s awareness campaign (Ros Altmann, Jo Cumbo, me and Tom McPhail). Apparently Metro have run a poll showing more than 90% of readers regard the campaign as a total waste of time , the rest reckoning him a “chippy little fella”.
I don’t hear much reaction from the pensions industry. The PLSA’s twitter feed was silent on Workie which is odd as he made his appearance a day after they launched their new campaign to increase awareness of auto-enrolment. My friend Margaret de Valois who has resolved to get a pensions story onto Corrie was not on the case.
It was Jo Cumbo of the FT who made the crucial observation
And the Pension Minister to justify the £8.5m spend
The message is simple enough, if you want to engage the silent majority of Britain’s employers, you need messages that resonate with our emotional intelligence. We are used to public service announcements which appeal to other parts of the brain , but you cannot educate people who aren’t engaged.
Ironically, I had sat in a meeting earlier in the week when a leading financial institution had suggested that it might be more helpful if I re-branded Pension PlayPen as First Actuarial. I think the suggestion makes sense if Pension PlayPen was aimed at the membership of the PLSA, but it isn’t. It’s designed to appeal to employers who feel intimidated by words like actuarial and consider accountants, payroll and pensions as unfortunate accoutrements to the main event -running their businesses.
Workie is an embodiment of how most employers think about pensions. As he wonders around the park, hapless and forlorn, we are asked to consider what is the point of him.
Those who dismiss Workie have yet to find a better way to ask people this question.
Supposing that getting to 1.8m employers like the Rovers Return or Roys Rolls is not going to be business as usual for the PLSA or me or the rest of the pension industry. Gift horses like Workie don’t come along very often and when they do, we shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand.
Embarassing as some may find him, insulting as many find him, Workie is our way to reach out to the public. As with Pension Geeks, which works on the same principal, I am going to support Workie in engaging with the nannies round the pond and the businessman on the park bench.
And I hope that what Ros and Jo and Tom and myself are saying, influences others. Because if we can’t act as one for the common good, we have precious little chance of making the next three years a success.