Gary on Insurance PR in Best’s Review

There’s a familiar face next to the “Top 5” insurance marketing column in April’s Best Review.

Gary shared his top-line insurance communications rules for the social media age, including best newsroom practices and the importance of a social media strategy.  Download the PDF of the column to read more — and let us know what you think.

Becoming Mobile and Social – Reflections from the IMCA Creative Forum

Finding really valuable take-aways from industry conferences can be a challenge. I went into the IMCA Creative Forum in Atlanta on Feb. 21 with a vested interest (full disclosure: I am on the IMCA board), but also some anticipation to learn more about everything from mobile marketing to social media integration.

Jon Beber of BilltoMobile opened the forum with insight into the incredible impact mobile marketing will have on our lives and the strategies of marketing and communications pros – smart phones, not computers, will drive everyday life and “PC analytics will not work with smart phones.” Mobile marketing needs to be part of the integrated communications mix.

James Wisdom, Director of New Media at Aflac, was a great follow-up with “The Power of Authenticity.” In this context, he discussed Aflac’s response to customer services issues raised on Facebook and their use of the Facebook Causes app: “If social media is talking about a cause, people are okay getting hammered about it.” More information I could use.

John Coombe of Liberty Mutual built on those ideas, describing their success with the Liberty Responsibility Project. He explained how this helped Liberty overcome consumer distrust about insurance and raised brand awareness 50 percent. They engaged customers in a dialogue and celebrated their customers’ responsibility – engaging over 10 million unique visitors. He also pointed out that 67% of agents are engaged in social media. That’s a tidbit that will help.

These are all great ideas and tidbits of information, but how do I sell these to my clients who may be timid or help them pitch their forward-thinking communications ideas to management? No worry – it was Sam Harrison up next with great tools for pitching ideas, all built on that great David Olgivy quote: “Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea until its presented to them by a good salesperson.” And he added 5 ideas for pitching ideas to management, emphasizing that “passion is a transfer of enthusiasm.”

After lunch, Tom Pytel of Allied World showed how his in-house creative team breaks through the marketing boredom and never lets budget limit creativity. Innovating collateral is not specifically relevant to my work, but it was inspiring to all of us who may be tempted to succumb to mediocrity.

And finally Howard Yermish (he claims to be the only one by that name) on “Internet Marketing, Creativity and Stravinsky.” He captured my interest with: “If you think you can control the flow of information from point A to point B, the Internet will kill you,” and kept on with an inspiring, hour-long presentation on unlocking our creativity using lessons from composers. We then broke into groups to put the theories to the test.

As you can probably tell, I walked away from the Creative Forum bursting with new ideas, my left and right brain feeling some connection. Not only did I gain practical information on mobile marketing and more, but I was inspired to push our clients with bolder ideas – and I have better tools to sell them on these ideas.

Insurance Agency Stats Illustrate Need for B2B Social Media Adoption

My PR agency works with insurance carriers, MGAs, wholesale brokers and other insurance entities that need to reach agents and brokers to be successful. So when I read a recent article (http://bit.ly/6sBxSO) reporting that less than a quarter of insurance agents and brokers use social media, I was reminded of why it can be a challenge to convince our clients – and any business-to-business company – to implement social media strategies.

Some think it will be a waste of time and resources. Others wonder just how it can help their business. And many just don’t understand it and are reluctant to dedicate time and effort to get up to speed. But to such reluctance, I would cite another statistic from the same magazine article – 20 percent of agents and brokers are considering using social media in 2010.

The plain fact is that social media/networking will continue to grow so it should be part of the marketing and communications strategies for any B2B company. It can supplement your print advertising and email blasts – both of which are declining in effectiveness, by the way. And on the PR side, you probably send press releases, write articles for trade magazines and attend events to network, exhibit or speak. Social media is another tool at your disposal.

Here are a couple of examples:

Social media can help with networking. For example, LinkedIn is an easy, natural way to network. It’s all about relationships and social networking is another way to build and maintain relationships.  One marketing pro I know got a new account the same day he set up his LinkedIn account.

Social media is a great way to connect with your audience and share your insights and expertise. If you are in the insurance industry, for example, Twitter is a way to share information that agents and brokers find helpful in doing business. Don’t try to sell yourself. Use the same reasoning as if you were speaking at an industry event or writing an article for one of the trade magazines. Speak about issues of interest to agents and brokers.

Remember, approach social media like any marketing decision – start with a strategy and turn to experts. Your PR and/or ad agency are a logical choice, but there are also Internet marketing firms that specialize in this. Or read up on it first and do it yourself. It is very easy.

Just don’t let news about slow adoption rates slow you down. Whatever your business, as more and more people adopt social media strategies, you want to be there.