Insurance in Plain English

Reaching the next generation of insurance consumers

Archive for May 2010

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 …

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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

PR grads: Congrats. Now get real.

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Welcome to graduation season. A time for family gatherings, cards holding checks with multiple zeroes and the obligatory advice to the graduating young adult blog posts.

Like so many other bright-eyed young students, I graduated this past Saturday, with my M.A. in organizational communication. I was a rarity in my department—a working professional with several years of experience in the field, as opposed to students who had moved directly from undergrad to grad work. As I listened to commencement speakers talking about the value of a communications degree, I kept wondering to myself, are these kids really prepared for the working world? No one ever told me that you’re supposed to learn how to actually DO something in college, develop a skill set that could help me support myself.

Public relations jobs are out there, but not always easy to come by in this market. And there are plenty of great tips and advice out there for graduates to learn how to land a job and succeed early in their careers. In the spirit of the season, I’m also contributing my insight, not about how to get a job in PR, but how to survive in it, with some tidbits that your professors probably never told you.

  • Get used to explaining what you do to friends and family, over and over again.
  • Accept that you don’t know jack about PR. No matter how many internships or “real world” classes you’ve taken, what the field actually entails won’t sink in till you’ve spent a few years in the trenches. There’s always more to learn.
  • Understand that “flashy” industry jobs (sports, fashion, entertainment, etc.) are the hardest to come by. If you want to emulate Samantha from Sex and the City, you can, but be prepared for it to (1) take years or (2) not work out exactly as you planned.
  • Agency experience is worth its weight in gold. Get some under your belt. It shows you can deal with crazy deadlines, demanding workloads and multiple clients. Plus, there’s no better way to learn a whole lot, quickly.
  • Keep in touch with everyone. Even that awkward kid on your floor from freshman year of college. Actually, ESPECIALLY that kid. Technology makes it easy, so there’s no excuse.
  • Want to make real money? Move to New York City. Now.
  • Your attitude is more important than your appearance. You could be in ripped jeans and a t-shirt, but make make damn sure you’re wearing a smile, every single day. PR is about being a company cheerleader, so act like one.
  • Maintain your hobbies and interests. It makes it a heck of lot easier when breaking the ice with clients and the media. Being an actual, living, breathing human being makes you likable, rather than a desperate flack.
  • Keep writing. And I don’t mean just for work, but personal pursuits as well. Get a Moleskin and keep it with you at all times. If you think this is ridiculous, start googling a new degree program, cause this isn’t the field for you.

So congratulations grads, welcome to the real world! Now get to work. And here’s a shout to some of the most eligible up-and-coming young professionals in the industry, featured on #HAPPO—you should think about hiring them.

Written by melissa

May 16, 2010 at 8:31 pm

A lesson in loyalty from LOST

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As I watched another intense, yet ultimately unsatisfying episode to the soon-to-be off-air show LOST on Tuesday night, I thought to myself: how did I get to this point? How did I, a proud non-television watcher, become absolutely obsessed with this show? I don’t pay for cable, I don’t own a DVR (or even understand them) and I have exactly one TV in my house, used almost exclusively for Netflix.

LOST’s incredible ability to draw a rabid fan base is worthy of note to all small business owners, and insurance agents in particular. Why yes, I am drawing a parallel between LOST and running an agency. Here are some ideas agents can pull from the hit show’s success:

  • Get current clients talking. So to answer my original question of how I became addicted: a friend told me about it. Word of mouth’s power cannot be underestimated; I thought LOST was some kind of Survivor-esque reality show prior to being lent the season one DVDs. Encourage your current clients to tell their friends about your agency. Consider offering discounts or other promotions if they refer you to others. These types of strategies will keep customers coming back.
  • Have the best people. I generally despise the sci-fi/fantasy genre. So how did a show like LOST, steeped in mysterious, inexplicable (so far) mythology grab my attention? The people. The show didn’t start out with (much) fantasy phenomena; instead, the producers focused on character development, making audience members fall in love with their stories lines. The same is true at your agency—by having quality staff, you ensure that you are putting your best customer service foot forward. Once they’re hooked, you can drop creepy smoke monsters and time travel on them.
  • Provide ample resources. Podcasts. Videos. Lostpedia. Blogs. There is no shortage of LOST resources on the web. That way, when I feel like indulging my inner geek, I can scout the ‘net and find out lots of interesting bits of information about the show (e.g., the 23rd Psalm starts “The Lord is my Shepherd,” which is also the number given to Jack Shephard?!?!). You should do the same for your clients. Make sure you have an effective agency website, consider blogging and engage clients through social media.

So next time you’re thinking about customer loyalty, think about LOST. And if all else fails, you can always fake being an expert.

Written by melissa

May 13, 2010 at 3:40 pm

What I’m reading: Social media

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One day out of the office, coupled with my ever growing to-do list has made my brief blogging absence necessary. But fear not, dear readers; there are other, yes OTHER fabulous blogs that you could be reading right now to get some wonderful nuggets of information. So, I officially christen my first-ever link roundup post, focusing on the wonders of that thing we call social media.

  • Laura Toops wonders if we’re due for a social media backlash in the near future. And, she coins the name of what’s sure to be the next big thing on the ‘net, FaceTwitLink.
  • Rick Morgan has noticed a growing number of folks in the insurance industry getting with the social media program, and calls on those already working in the space to reach out a helping hand.
  • Laura Lee lists the four things she’s sick of seeing on Twitter; I particularly enjoyed her comparison of talking about social media on social media  to the telephone:

“Can you believe we’re using the telephone?”
“I know. I love the telephone.”
“I’d like to know how you are using the phone to enhance your conversations.”
“I have been able to call many people and discuss how we can use the telephone.”
“Are you using the telephone in business?”
“I’ve been able to pro-actively develop synergies for a win-win customer experience using the power of telephonic networking.”
“That’s great. Do you dial with your right hand or left?”

  • Stuart Brice provides insightful commentary on the Fast Company article detailing ways to improve social media currency, complete with pretty infographic.
  • Insurance Marketing HQ has a great post on how insurance agencies can leverage social media to grow business. Social media results in leads? Imagine that.
  • And, last but certainly not least, Ryan Hanley posted an excellent review of The Referral Engine by Jon Jantsch, a book (that I will have to pick up myself) on the value of the all powerful referral in business.

Readers, have you stumbled across any particularly interesting posts relevant to the insurance industry’s use of social media lately?

Written by melissa

May 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Don’t be a renaissance (wo)man

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In my last post, I talked a bit about the various roles I serve in my all-encompassing position as public relations specialist. Today, I’m thinking about something that seems almost entirely contrary: focusing on a niche.

Now, I’m not talking about job function or skill sets. I’m talking industry. When you graduate from college with a degree in an area that provides you with a certain specialized skill (e.g. marketing, communication, finance, accounting), you may know what you want to do, but have no idea what industry you want to do it in.

It’s a blessing and a curse—so many options … so many overwhelming options! Sports? Fashion? Finance? Technology? Healthcare?  Cleary, I’ve chosen property/casualty insurance.

I highly recommend finding a niche, and finding it fast—there are great advantages of working in a specific business. You become a respected authority in your area, someone folks turn to when they need insight on particular issues. Instead of having a string of unrelated industry experience on your resume, you suddenly become a person with sought-after expertise.

What do you see as your industry niche? What do you see as the benefits or downfalls?

Written by melissa

May 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Niche marketing

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