Insurance in Plain English

Reaching the next generation of insurance consumers

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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How many hats are you wearing?

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Inspired by this post at the PRBreakfast Club, I’ve been thinking more and more about the various job functions I perform under the deceptively limited title of “public relations specialist.” Here are some of the roles I serve, in addition to my chief role of handling media relations:

  • Reporter
  • Videographer
  • Poster maker
  • Sound editor
  • Photographer
  • Proofreader
  • Web designer
  • Social media guru
  • Schmoozer
  • Conference assistant
  • Media trainer
  • Ghostwriter
  • Negotiator
  • Researcher
  • PowerPoint expert
  • Framer
  • Driver
  • Speech writer

That “other duties as assigned” bullet on my job description is getting quite the workout!

It’s not just me. Companies across the board are trying to do more with less. Of course, I got to thinking about insurance, and specifically about agents. Insurance agents are advisors, friends, legal experts, financial experts, claims handlers, marketers, CEOs, accountants and so much more. There’s no limit to the functions you must serve, particularly if you run your own small, independent agency.

So what profession are you in that requires many hats?

Written by melissa

May 4, 2010 at 10:08 am

Posted in Careers, Public relations

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When I grow up …

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“When I grow up, I want to work in public relations for the property/casualty insurance industry.”

You need not ask my mother to be assured that a little seven-year-old Melissa never uttered those words.

Bright-eyed mini me wanted to become a flashy type of professional, maybe an astronaut or journalist, not get involved in something as boring as insurance.

Insurance is not typically viewed as fun (though these guys would probably disagree). The field has a notoriously bad reputation; no wonder it’s so difficult to encourage young professionals to embrace insurance as a career path.

N7XEKFM7EPJPLike so many others, I just “happened” upon this industry—the right opportunity was available for me at the right time and I dove in. Even though I love what I do, it still disheartens me when I try to explain exactly why I’m so passionate about this field to my equally young counterparts, and get confused looks about thinking insurance is just plain cool.

The industry is graying; we need a fresh new crop of producers, underwriters, marketers and more. And we can’t just hope that folks will suddenly stumble on insurance as their dream career opportunity. Young people today don’t even want to talk about their insurance, much less go into the field.

  • Stress the benefits. With a challenging economy making the post-college job hunt more daunting than ever before, Millenials are looking for more than just flash and fun—they’re looking for stability. The good news is that our industry is projected as stable; even some significant growth is expected.
  • Use new resources. The next generation isn’t checking out the newspaper classifieds for a job hunt. They’re on Twitter and Facebook. They’re using social networks and finding jobs in new ways. Learn how to recruit the best of the next generation to reap the maximum benefit.
  • Value your young employees. Young professionals can provide priceless insight, so make sure to take care of the ones you have. Understand what the next generation is seeking from work. It’s no longer just about paycheck. It’s about opportunity for growth, flexibility and work-life balance.

I, for one, will continue to defend the benefits of working in the insurance industry. But it’s not enough—each and every one of us needs to become an evangelist for insurance careers, talking it up, particularly when in the company of up and coming professionals.

So tell me—how did you end up in this industry? How can we recruit more young professionals?

Written by melissa

May 3, 2010 at 9:48 am

The accidental social media presence

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A recent post from the insurance brains over at Celent addressed some of the latest features on the most popular social networks—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter—that are making it all but impossible for businesses to avoid getting involved in the new mediums.

The mantra of social media aficionados is that people are already talking about your business; if you choose not to get involved in the conversation, you lose your voice. And it’s true—all it takes it one angry client to sully your business’s name on the web to start a tidal wave.

So why not put to you ear to the ground? Listening is your first step to controlling your presence on the net, particularly in social media, and there are a number of different tools for this. See if you show up on Google’s Social Search. Monitor Twitter accounts of folks in the insurance industry (@IJournal and @RiskMgmt are two to start on). Set up Google alerts, the greatest gift to public relations from the search engine gods.

Stop making excuses and do your research. This type of “listening” is the key first step in developing your social media presence.

Written by melissa

April 30, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Insurance, Social media

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