Insurance, insights, and acrobats: RIMS 2017

The annual RIMS conference is always a worthwhile annual reunion for the insurance industry. It’s an enormous event that gathers carriers, brokers, and tech companies to network and (dare I say) have a good bit of fun! For those who’ve been, they know: the RIMS parties are something else. This year’s event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center here in Philadelphia treated attendees to acrobats in the main atrium, a champagne fairy, a Billy Idol concert and remarks from Michael J. Fox.

But the conference isn’t short on substance, either. There were valuable educational sessions, tasty meals and inspiring speakers. It also gathers the insurance and business media to meet in one place. From a public relations perspective, that is an incredible opportunity. It is the time to connect key reporters and industry thought leaders to engage in constructive conversations about risk and insurance.

We used the opportunity to say “hi” to old friends on the media side and introduce them to clients as future resources. We also facilitated some on-site interviews to make sure our clients got in front of the RIMS audience – a key group for anyone looking to get their message across to broker, carriers, and more.

In the case of one of our attending clients Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance, we also got the opportunity to see things from the exhibitor perspective as we captured social media content for them. Check out this video of a critical loss control tool they are using with their customers demonstrated at their exhibit booth.

Social media was a key component of the conference, down to the #RIMS2017 hashtag displayed boldly in giant letters in the entrance to the convention center. Screens throughout the convention center compiled tweets with the hashtag, and people were quick to pose for photos as the “I” in RIMS (like we did).

Sam_Eileen at RIMS2017_2

The RIMS conference may be primarily an education and networking opportunity for the insurance pros involved, but for us insurance PR pros, these opportunities to connect with reporters and create social media content were just as important. Thanks to the RIMS organization for a valuable conference. See you in San Antonio!

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Sometimes Bigger PR Agencies Are Just Bigger

At big agencies, you're paying for the overhead ... and all those chairs.  Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At big agencies, you’re paying for the overhead … and all those chairs.
Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Sadly, this lesson is sometimes lost in the process of evaluating public relations agencies. Often the bigger agency is selected because they are seen as “the safe bet.”

However sometimes the safe bet with PR agencies isn’t always the best bet and the little guy is overlooked to the detriment of the company conducting the search. To those companies, I offer six reasons they would do well to consider small agencies like mine.

  1. It’s Personal, Not Just Business. Working with a smaller agency, clients typically have direct access to the agency president and senior staff. So do the agency’s employees. This means ideas aren’t just top-down, and everyone has a stake in the success of the account.
  2. What You See Is What You Get. The better-run small agencies have less staff turnover, especially at the senior level. So the folks you meet at the new business pitch meeting are the folks actually doing the work for your company. That almost never happens at big agencies.
  3. Small Agencies Are Built By Big People. Small PR agencies are populated with PR pros who left big agencies to focus on good work instead of billable hours, or by established journalists who bring a well-honed reporter’s eye to the story-craft of public relations. Big agencies are not the only bastions of talent.
  4. Budgets Don’t Drive Success. Small agencies have less overhead then larger competitors. This means smaller agencies work toward success, not billable hours. At larger agencies, clients with small budgets are often relegated to a few hours of work per month, led by the most junior, least experienced staff members.
  5. Flexibility and Responsiveness Are Watchwords. Small agencies usually don’t have “big” accounts to fall back on, so ensuring every client feels like the only client is the hallmark of a well-run small agency. This means responding promptly to clients, and being able to adapt well to changing priorities.
  6. It’s a Business of Personality and Ideas. Success – with big or small agencies – is predicated on the people on the account and the ideas they generate. In this area, size is not a factor. One smart, industrious solo PR pro with good ideas and a little elbow grease can be as valuable to a client as an army of well-polished and mildly talented PR practitioners. As Twain said, it’s about the fight in the dog.

This isn’t to say all big agencies are bad and all small agencies are good. It’s simply why smaller agencies should not be disregarded as a “best bet.”

I’ve heard too many stories from clients and co-workers alike about companies that chose big PR agencies based purely on the idea they were a perceived safe bet. (As the saying goes, “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.”) These same folks, after prolonged discovery periods and big “start up” fees, came to find bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes bigger is just bigger.

When to Hop Off the Facebook Bandwagon

Jump Off

via Flickr user psmithy

In my internal life as a secret pundit, I hold strong, unpopular opinions on a wide range of topics. I’ll spare you my monologue on the proper storage of tomatoes, but let’s discuss my wildly unfashionable opinions on Facebook, which are probably more relevant to your interests.

Here’s a radical thought: Facebook doesn’t work that well for some brands, particularly small B2B service providers. Yes, that Facebook—the stuff of marketing mavens’ dreams. For many, it turns into a marketing nightmare; after devoting time and energy to creating and curating a brand page, a chorus of crickets greets you instead of legions of grateful fans.

Many self-proclaimed social media experts will suggest that you are doing it wrong. That is true in some cases, but not all. If Facebook isn’t working for you, I think there are a few reasons it is more than okay to stop using your brand page.

It’s cost prohibitive

Contrary to popular belief, using Facebook as a PR and marketing tool is far from free. It is time-intensive, no matter what strategies and tools you use. It’s cliche but true: at work, time is money.

To get the most out of a Facebook brand page, you should spend time and money not only perusing and posting, but also creating videos and custom visual content like infographics, memes and quality photos. Last time I checked, graphic designers don’t work for free. Plus, paid ads, contests and promoted posts are often the only way to get any semblance of a noticeable boost in fans and engagement. This could be time and money well-spent, but not if you don’t see results.

Your content never meets its mark    

When I say engagement, I’m not speaking in abstract jargon. What I mean is people seeing, liking, commenting beneath and clicking thru to your content. On Twitter, engagement defined this way is possible any time someone logs on and scrolls through their feed. On Facebook, what someone sees on their News Feed depends on a number of factors analyzed by the company’s EdgeRank algorithm, which you can read more about here.

From a personal user’s perspective, there are advantages to EdgeRank and otherwise being in control of your News Feed. For example, with a few clicks, you can hide future posts from your Facebook-addicted auntie and never again be subjected to her semi-literate rants on the tyranny of everyday objects.

However, the same tool may prevent a user from being exposed to your brand’s content, even if s/he would like to see it—which s/he presumably does, since s/he “likes” you. Users rarely return to a brand’s Facebook page after they have liked it, so they won’t see your pithy posts there. And if you don’t share a photo, it is unlikely that they will see a post in their News Feed. As many have lamented, EdgeRank prefers gimics over content that is relevant to your audience. If you provide B2B services, or something that is equally ill-matched to meme-ing or Harlem Shaking, you just may never stand out.

There are other options    

Should you want to stand out on Facebook? This question nags me. For companies that provide consumer products or entertainment, the Facebook News Feed is a natural fit. You want to be (and often are) an integral part of your customers’ personal lives, so you fit in snugly between a cousin’s baby pictures and political rants from college friends.

For most other kind of brand, the Facebook News Feed is an awkward fit, like trying to wear the clothes you thought were cool at age 15. No one thinks you look cool in those JNCOs, and no one wants to hear about some esoteric corporate service while they are perusing their iPad on the couch.

In the wide world of digital marketing and PR, there exist many more agreeable options. If you are struggling with Facebook and don’t even enjoy the medium, maybe it’s time to redirect your efforts elsewhere. Perhaps your time and energy could be better spent on Twitter, LinkedIn or a blog. Read case studies, ask around and give a new network a try.

I’m far from the first person to suggest Facebook isn’t the social media marketing magic bullet, but I don’t think many take action in response. Has anyone out there abandoned their Facebook strategy? Tell us about it in the comments.

Think Digital First: Podcast

Video

Gary follows up his recent column in Best’s Review with a Best’s Day podcast. Listen below.

You’re the One that I Want

With the introduction of Vine in January, business owners and managers have all the more reason to ask, “What do I want out of my business’ online relationships?” Take Valentine’s Day as a reminder to think about what social media outlets and features are the best matches for your business.

Admiralspalast Berlin / Foter / CC BY-ND

Here are five points to follow to keep successful relationships with your customers or clients on social media:

1. Social is Seductive, so be Selective

Social media can be seductive with the amount of platforms out there, and all of the various tactics one can use to reach a customer – from hashtags to video. We only see this increasing in 2013 and beyond. But, this means businesses – both B2C and B2B – need to be more and more selective about what social networks and services they include in their social media strategy.

Businesses should also focus their social strategy because users will more often pick and choose which social networks they want to pay to join. As seen with YouTube, social media will continue to be monetized. Developing the verbal and visual content that make the relationship between a business and its followers work takes time – and money. So, choose your accounts carefully.

2. Find your Social Media Sweetheart

Just like magazines and newspapers have varied demographics for readership, so do social media channels. In the crowd of companies and organizations online, you have to choose the best ways to reach your audience.

Plus, businesses don’t want just any number of followers – they want the right ones. Social media is just another powerful tool to engage the important customers and decision makers that affect your business. Don’t waste your time on Facebook if all of your potential fans have moved their attention to Twitter. To find where you want to attract followers, and what to expect from some social media outlets throughout the year, here are a few insights. Forbes shares specific stats for B2B businesses.

3. Ask, What are you Willing to Share?

In 2013, consider sharing content that is visual. More than ever, online users don’t just appreciate visual content, they expect it. Social media speaker and author Mari Smith called 2013 the “year of the video.” Before the New Year even began, we also saw social media becoming increasingly visual.

Now you have a surplus of options for visual content strategies – from quarterly infographics to a monthly Google+ Hangout video series or weekly original photos. If Vine is any indication, developers will continue to expand the multimedia possibilities that businesses can take advantage of online.

4. Fine Dining is Better than Fast Food

Image aside, be sure that any content you produce is original with substance. Consistently allotting time to develop quality content on one or two social outlets can pay off more than publishing watered-down content over eight platforms.

As Social Media Strategist Jason Miller writes, “The cookie-cutter SEO driven, keyword stuffed, generic regurgitated content is becoming a sort of white noise that blocks all of the real quality stuff from surfacing.” Remember to also give time for accuracy, grammar and punctuation (“If Your Writing Sucks, So Will Your Content”).

5. Be a Matchmaker

When pursuing your social media outlets, always integrate them with one another to ensure you’ve hit all of your target audiences. And, keep in mind how your social media sites will appear on all forms of mobile devices, as this is where your readers will live, more and more. According to the Nielson State of the Media report, consumers’ time spent with social media on mobile devices increased 63 percent in 2012.

The Social Media Examiner predicts that a new social media platform that “no one saw coming” will surface in 2013 (#16 on this list). If this does transpire, just consider if the social media site will marry well with your business plan before you start yet another online relationship.

Photo credit: Admiralspalast Berlin / Foter / CC BY-ND

#RFTweet: And now for something completely different

Yesterday, Aloft Hotels officially ended their novel #RFTweet process. Most businesses vet PR agencies through a time- and paper-consuming Request for Proposal (RFP) process, one with which we have ample experience. We were game to try something new in the pursuit of a fun, new client.

If you follow @kimballpr on Twitter, you’ll notice that we aren’t hourly tweeters like many other agencies. Frankly, we’re busy writing and calling and posting and tweeting for our clients. But don’t let that lull you into think we can’t deploy our social media skills when necessary. We did what we’re best at, producing a thoughtful yet timely, multimedia-enhanced pitch. Even if we don’t get a call for the second round of vetting, this was a valuable exercise in practicing what we preach, namely:

  • Acting, not reacting, on social media
  • Incorporating video, photos and fun
  • Making use of evergreen content

See our Storify of the experience for the full story.

[View the story “#PitchAloft with Kimball PR” on Storify]

Social Media for B2B – Manage Those Expectations

When I walk into meeting with B2B clients and suggest social media strategies, I seem to be evoking similar responses: A curious interest in exploring it, but a healthy skepticism of what benefit it will bring them. It would be stupid to ignore that feedback.

The truth is that while we are engaged with social media on many levels, introducing and sometimes managing efforts for clients, it’s still very tough giving B2B companies tangible reasons to spend time and money. This challenge, along with their reluctance to dedicate internal resources, have led me to a few conclusions, which I am very open to suggestions about:

  • Social media strategies for many B2B operations will have little or no results for some time. It takes time to get connected on LinkedIn and gain followers on Twitter, so while there may be some business opportunities that arise, they will be few at first.
  • It’s okay to introduce social media strategies to B2B companies, but stick to LinkedIn and Twitter, and limit the budget and expectations. If you are expecting someone to allocate marketing budget dollars, they will expect results, and we all know that measurement is tough at best.
  • Some PR/ad/marketing agencies are pushing social media analysis or strategies to clients just to make a buck. Those agencies will lose credibility long-term.

There are opportunities with B2B social media strategies, but best to take small steps and set realistic expectations.