NCPERS 2024 Pension Communications Summit: Recap
Nearly 100 public pension communications professionals gathered in Washington, DC on January 21-22 for NCPERS' second annual Pension Communications Summit.
By: Lizzy Lees, Director of Communications, NCPERS
Nearly 100 public pension communications professionals gathered in Washington, DC on January 21-22 for NCPERS' second annual Pension Communications Summit. Attendees traveled from 27 different states to learn best practices, discuss communications-related challenges, and connect with peers.
Keep reading for highlights, and sign up here for updates on next year's summit.
The event kicked off with facilitated networking, where attendees got to know each other while discussing challenges their funds are facing, goals for the coming year, and more.
During the “Journalist Fireside Chat” session, attendees got the inside scoop on what it's like to be a journalist dedicated to pension coverage. Christian Palmer, Communications Director for the Arizona Public Safety Pension Retirement System, moderated the conversation between Alicia McElhaney, senior reporter at Institutional Investor, and Brian Croce, Washington bureau chief for Pensions & Investments.
Day two of the event was packed full of educational sessions, with plenty of networking opportunities built in. Olivia Applegate, Director of Communications & Stakeholder Relations for the San Bernardino County Employees' Retirement Association (SBCERA), started the day by sharing tips for communications with members at various life stages. She shared valuable insights into improving engagement and understanding members' communications preferences.
Kelly Kennealy, communications consultant for NIRS, then shared external communications best practices, strategies for engaging with media, and reputational risk management tips.
Continuing with the theme of reputational risk management, Marty Karlon shared how the New Hampshire Retirement System implemented an effective communications strategy to correct misinformation and build trust in the system.
Karen Doron, director of communications for the California State Teachers' Retirement System, took a deep dive into social media strategy, sharing best practices and discussing the role of social media in a fund's overall communications strategy.
Attendees then watched a live demonstration of how AI tools can streamline a communications strategy. Joe Potischman, marketing specialist at Linea Solutions, discussed various use cases and tips for developing an internal policy for AI.
Following a networking lunch, Shawn Harper and Jonathan Yost shared scalable strategies to optimize communications to employers and improve the experience for plan participants and retirees, using their experience at Oregon PERS as a case study.
In an increasingly digital-first world, more and more pensions are implementing self-service apps and web portals to better serve members and retirees. During the “Do's and Don'ts for Your Next Website or App Launch” session, attendees heard three different perspectives on why a fund might consider a site redesign or app launch and learned what to keep in mind during the process—no matter the available resources. Panelists included Sandeep Mehta of PensionX, Mehrin Rahman of the City of Austin Employees' Retirement System, and Patrick von Keyserling of Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association.
Laurie Mitchell, senior business consultant with Tegrit, discussed how a new pension administration system (PAS) creates opportunities for improved member communications and shared tips for making the transition a success.
Elyse Jancosko, a principal consultant at Syntropy Partners, shared tips for effective change management and strategies for demonstrating the role of the communications team internally.
Finally, the inaugural Public Pension Communicator of the Year Awards were presented to Alison Taylor-Thévenin, deputy director, member communications for the New York City Board of Education Retirement System, Taneda Larios, chief benefits analyst for the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System, Patrick von Keyserling, senior director of communications for Colorado PERA, and Michelle Holleman, director, communications and stakeholder relations for the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund. Award winners provided an overview of their accomplishments and shared advice with fellow public pension communicators as they plan for the year ahead.