Insurance in Plain English

Reaching the next generation of insurance consumers

I’ve moved to a new domain!

Exciting stuff, folks … Insurance in Plain English is up and running on its own domain. Woohoo! So please update your links, and let the good times continue to roll in my new home.

Written by melissa

June 9, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Social media and public relations: BF4E?

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A number of bloggers recently have addressed the connection between an organization’s social media efforts and public relations pros. PR departments are being given control of the purse strings more often than marketing, allowing communications professionals to essentially dominate the social media landscape.

While some believe that no one department can really own social media, it’s clear that PR professionals seem to leading the charge when it comes to these campaigns across the board.

So why the heck is this happening? Why are a bunch of grammar-loving flacks also heading up the dive into the Twitterverse and such?

Same goals, different mediums

The bottom line is that both public relations and social media have the same end goal: relationship management. In fact, I’d argue that you can’t really separate social media from public relations; social media is simply a tool that helps augment results in PR. To take a line from Christina Warren’s Mashable post,

PR professionals are using social media in a lot of ways to either supplement or add on to existing PR strategies. The most successful PR pros focus on creating active relationships and truly engaging with their customers (or constituents) to have a real conversation.

Social media, just like PR, is about building relationships, not generating sales (at least not directly). Both are about boosting your reputation and helping your organization to stay top-of-mind.

Do you think PR should head up social media efforts?

Written by melissa

June 7, 2010 at 8:00 am

Insurance agents: Make the most of social media

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Today’s (first ever!) guest post is from Ben Jamieson at Astonish Results, beating the drum on an issue that speaks to many of my readers.

I have spoken with so many insurance agents in the past year who have whined to me about their Facebook and Twitter campaigns as being a complete waste of time. Their approach to social media goes something like this – create a business account, upload a profile photo (usually the company logo), invite the wife and office employees to be friends or followers – then they ask, “why haven’t insurance consumers started flocking to my agency?”

If you want to take advantage of the opportunities social media can bring to your business or insurance agency, you must not assume it will happen without an effort. And it certainly will not happen overnight.

If I had to give three points of advice for improving a social media campaign it would go as follows:

  1. Create a page that is eye catching, unique, and speaks to your business brand. Ninety-nine percent (unofficial stat) of business pages on Facebook and Twitter come in the form of blandness and monotony. Make your pages stand out and sing to visitors.
  2. Interact directly with your visitors and encourage participation. Hold a contest, take a poll, offer a discount, give them useful information, etc. Keep people coming back with interesting tidbits and personal incentives.
  3. Track your metrics. Metrics are a vital aspect to a successful web and social media presence. Understanding your company’s metrics will keep you informed of what works and what doesn’t. There are several programs for social media analytics management, or you can handle it on your own.

I’m calling out to all insurance agents! Get with it! Use social media to your advantage or don’t use it at all. Social media is not a fad and the hype is very real. Get on board or get out of the way.

Written by melissa

June 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

Why bother measuring?

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My last post generated a lot of interest, and a lot of agreement that some kind of measurement needs to be in play when talking about the less quantifiable fields of social media and public relations. Nick Brown from InsuranceHQ made a great point noting that,

ROI will always be relevant as long as the social media/PR practitioners are NOT the bosses.

Yup. ROI to justify our very existence. It’s a cold, hard fact, but it is up to the PR and social media professionals to translate their value to management. A practitioner’s intuitive “sixth sense” is not enough.

It provides justification for the very existence of such a department. Communication is often the first area to get cut from the budget, simply because there are no immediately observable effects on sales or profit.

One noted communication scholar, Dr. Geduldig, paints the picture,

A hard-nosed manager would have a tough job evaluating a function that cannot be defined and can do well when it does nothing … Don’t expect others to buy public relations on faith. If public relations doesn’t set standards of measurement that are both objective and meaningful, management will apply its own, and the value of public relations will ultimately be measured against the bottom line.

Proving your worth is no longer as simple as showing evidence of volume or claiming public relations, social media and reputation evaluation to be intangible and not subject to measure—managers are demanding quantifiable results of practitioners

Ah, but measurement does actually have a greater, nobler purpose than securing our paychecks (though that in itself isn’t too bad). It helps determine whether or not we are meeting the objectives we’ve set for our communicative efforts. Is social media helping our agency? Is our public relations campaign effective? How can we do better? You can’t attack these questions without having some sort of measurement and evaluation program in place.

So what do you think—why should we be measuring our public relations and social media efforts?

Written by melissa

June 1, 2010 at 9:00 am

ROI: Ridiculous, obsolete idea?

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Shame on me. It’s been a week. I blame a lot of things, not the least of which was the shock associated with the LOST series finale.

This interview of Ryan Hanley (a fellow resident of beautiful Albany), conducted by Peter van Aartrijk and Rick Morgan, got me thinking about one of the topics du jour in social media, the search for return on investment.

According to Ryan,

Everyone says, well, what’s your ROI? At this point in the social media movement, to try to slap ROI on it and make a business decision is going to be tough to do. Because it’s hard to calculate.

Don’t I know it! How can I provide quantified, tangible results explaining how valuable my organization’s Twitter accounts are? How can I create a correlation between our LinkedIn groups and sales? How do I explain that no, I’m not just fooling around on the ‘net, I’m actually building relationships? It’s not easy. Heck, it’s pretty close to impossible.

Well, all this talk about ROI made me nostalgic. For the past six months, I’ve been immersed in my (finally completed) master’s thesis, AKA the bane of my existence, which focused on measurement in an area equally as intangible as social media, public relations. Think about it: How do you measure reputation? How do you measure client perception?  Same issue.

A bit of self-plagiarism, and the complication of measurement is clear,

With sales, one can measure end-of-year figures against a set of objectives at the beginning of the year. But public relations is much more nebulous; how can you measure the goal of increased visibility and awareness? How can you track all the instances that a consumer recalled your brand as a result of some positive press he or she read in the local newspaper? Such black-and-white, A-to-B type measurement is not just impractical, but also, nearly impossible to conduct in this field.

While my very own words seem to echo the advice of those who say we need to look past ROI, I don’t completely agree. Measurement is still important.  It helps to determine if our efforts were effective and to decide which strategies to keep, which to trash. It makes us more reflective, and, ultimately, better practitioners. As one scholar put it, “You can only manage what you measure.” But, I do think that today’s measurement techniques need to be different than what we’ve relied on in the past.

So what do you think? Is the concept of ROI in public relations and social media as outdated as the betamax?

Coming soon … well, smarty pants, how DO we measure reputation? Stay tuned …

Written by melissa

May 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm

You should give a damn about your bad reputation

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Pop culture has been skewering the insurance industry for years. The loss of insurance coverage is a popular topic, as is the storyline of someone being conned into purchasing an unnecessary policy.

It’s no big secret that the industry suffers from a terrible reputation. Beyond the more obvious “insurance companies are evil and stealing money from little old ladies” claims, there is also the feeling that we are a quite boring and downright mean industry (think Mr. Incredible as claims adjuster).

Bad reputation is a huge part of the reason why we struggle to draw young blood into the industry. After all, who wants to be involved in a stodgy, inflexible, deceptive business?

You can’t afford to be like Joan Jett; reputation is everything. And there are plenty of recommendations out there for how insurance professionals can win back respect and improve their reputation; the National Underwriter’s Sam Friedman has been a vocal contributor to this discussion, even suggesting there be an insurance-related reality television show (I’d watch.).

I’m a proponent of taking small steps as individuals. Provide stellar service to clients. Ask for referrals. Use new technologies to your advantage. Talk up the industry; make it cool (yes, cool) to be an insurance professional.

Any insight on how you think insurance professionals can work to improve the industry’s image?

Written by melissa

May 20, 2010 at 9:06 am

Why social media in financial services?

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Wondering why a financial services professional should get involved in social media? Well, you’re in luck: my guest post over at Financially Digital will shine some light on this subject.

And while you’re there, check out the rest of the Financially Digital blog, from my very own “blog mentor,” Nunzio. Yup. He’s pretty awesome.

Written by melissa

May 19, 2010 at 8:28 am

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