Insurance in Plain English

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Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

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

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