Communications Key for Development and Launch of Mobile App
By Susan Otten
When I’m not having fun supporting Minnesota professional communicators as President of IABC Minnesota, my day job (as I like to call it) is COO of VITAL WorkLife. As a national behavioral health consulting company, we’re in the business of improving the well being and health of employees and leaders in many diverse industries. With healthcare as our largest market and physicians consistently ranking high as stressed and burned out professionals, we had to find a better way to make them aware of the services their organizations were providing for them to improve their overall well being. Solution: develop and launch our own mobile app.
So, as any good communicator would do, I set out to clearly define our objectives for our first app, VITAL WorkLife Mobile. We interviewed our key clients, plus consultants, counselors and coaches who deliver our solutions, and then vetted these results with our own team of account executives, service delivery and marketing teams. The results determined some critical needs:
- Deliver a readily accessible tool to improve utilization by 20% of benefits already purchased by our clients.
- Help physicians take control of their own well being by increasing their knowledge as measured by number of assessments completed, articles read, goals set and goals achieved.
- Support healthcare leadership who are working to develop a culture of well being within their organization as measured by number of clients and number of touches by using our app materials to support their internal communications campaigns.
The next step was to roll up our sleeves to gather the content and develop the features to be deployed via the app. We have an extremely collaborative culture, so each team played a role:
- COO – project manager to select and manage developer to create the app, the content champions who were developing content and marketing who was responsible for communications.
- Service Delivery – content champions who develop articles, assessments and recommendations in each of six areas of well being: professional, physical, relational, financial/legal, spiritual and emotional. Articles are also posted to our blog and social platforms to leverage this content and ensure an integrated communications process.
- Account Executives – client liaisons who gathered requirements/feedback during development and testing.
- Marketing – develop messaging for both launch and ongoing materials (presentation, literature, website, email announcements) for our clients’ internal communications teams to encourage downloads and engagement.
Client engagement was key to every step of the process as we wanted an app our members would really use to access their benefits and to learn more about their own well being. Working on being holistically healthy is hard work, even more so for busy professionals (can I get an “Amen!”), so making it more available via iPhones and Androids was a priority in supporting our clients.
- Requirements – We used email and follow up conversations by our Client Services reps to learn what was important to our members and the HR teams at the organizations where they work. This gave us not only a list of functions and features for the app, but also an amazing depth of insight into the challenges they were currently facing. This started other consultative discussions on ways we could help with our other solutions, resulting in some additional sales opportunities (an unforeseen benefit).
- Testing & Feedback – During development we released versions of the app for testing functionality and response. First, internal testers, including our consultants and counselors, would do an assessment, we would update if needed, then we would retest and send to client testers who agreed to provide feedback. This process of develop/test/redevelop/retest/deploy was communications intense but provided for the best product. It certainly added time to the process, but it was time well spent.
- Early Adopters & Advocates – Client testers quickly became familiar with the app and came to have personal ownership and a sense of pride for the product they helped to build. As we get ready to launch VITAL WorkLife Mobile, we will have some early adopters and internal advocates in place with some of our clients to help encourage others to download and use it as well as answer questions.
So what’s next?
A communicator’s work is never done and, as I am learning, neither is an app developer’s work. As Marketing and Client Services begins our launch campaign, Service Delivery is working on the next functional enhancements and continues to develop fresh content. I am starting on a companion app for our non-healthcare Employee Assistance Program (EAP) clients and am focusing on the analytics and reporting to track the success of our first app.
Overall, we hope to accomplish the following:
- Happier/healthier clients through more utilization of our services
- A more engaged team working together toward a common (big) goal
- Increased awareness in the marketplace resulting in new business
Communications played a key role in the design, development and launch of our new app. What big projects have you supported with your communications talents? I would love to hear about them. Please email me so we can feature these successes in our IABC Minnesota blog.