Rein4ce CEO Mairi Mallon explains why right now an emphasis on well thought out and smart communications is vital for global markets
Although our industry supposedly went digital a few years ago, the insurance and reinsurance markets are still heavily reliant on face-to-face conduct – or at least they were until just a few short weeks ago.
During this terrible pandemic, we are all having to work differently, and in this blog, I will concentrate of how we can communicate in this strange new world. We are all starting to get our heads around this new reality of no travel, no office, and no face-to-face meetings – and all this with our children, pets and other halves in the background.
It has never been more important for insurance and reinsurance companies to communicate effectively with their staff, customers, the media and the markets. Here are some tips on how to achieve this.
The basics on communicating with staff, clients, customers and the media remotely
Get set up at home properly
Many senior people rose through the ranks in a pre-digital era, and while this means they are excellent on the phone, some may be on the back foot when it comes to technology. Some of them have the best gadgets for personal use that money can buy – they will work out Skype, Zoom and Teams –just give them a helping hand.
Get a real desk, a proper chair, a keyboard, and a second screen. Find a space – it doesn’t need to be very big – that is yours and away from the kids if they are young. Here’s our advice on how to get started with remote working in insurance.
Get good IT
We use a small, brilliant company that can remotely jump on our computers at any time of the night or day, set up new laptops, and answer even the most stupid of tech questions. If you work for a large organisation, become friends with the IT team. If you are a smaller business, make sure you have a direct dial to a good company that has time to work with you – and always remember Google and Millennials may just have the answer.
Get broadband to work
If you are used to working in a city, but live in the suburbs, your internet may not be strong enough to deal with the kids and two adults at home. My advice? Buy boosters. You can also turn your camera off on dial ins which should stop the slowdown. And be patient with each other – the world and its mother are now online.
Guidance on comms tools
Issue guidance to your staff on how to conduct video calls or phone calls. People are going to have to be more forgiving of children, partners, relatives or pets being heard or seen while calls are taking place. As most people will be video calling, remember to stay presentable. (I have a hairbrush, a jacket on the back of my chair and red lipstick on my desk so that I can smarten up quickly if I’m about to go on an important call)
New communications landscape
1. Tear up your comms plans
I hate the term, but now really is the time for ‘blue sky thinking’ – or whatever cliché we want to use. There is no point in sticking to a plan that is based around conferences, key dates and press schedules that may no longer exist.
2. Only work three months out
We really have no idea how long this will go on, so we advise clients to work on social and traditional media plans for the next three months, then start again.
3. Plan for the worst
At each stage of getting a new plan, the question should be: “What is the worst thing people can say about this?” Look at your statements cynically and always ask someone to review them for sense!
4. Back to basics
What do you want to say and who do you want to say it to? These are the building blocks of what we do. What are key messages that your underwriters, brokers, lawyers, and tech guys want to communicate? Who are they trying to reach? And how can you reach them while we are all working from home?
5. Mitigate against people saying stupid things
Remind your staff about your social media policies on what is acceptable to send to colleagues and contacts, and what is not.I’ve already been sent really inappropriate memes on WhatsApp by senior people in the market who are simply bored. While deeply amusing, if some of these were sent internally, they could lead to a sexual harassment suit or a whole litany of other HR issues. Make sure staff are not broadcasting risqué material to the world under the company name.
6. Do some research
Find out what is happening virtually instead of in real life – webinars, lectures, virtual round tables, etc and see if your executives can join in.
7. The importance of the written word
People have a lot of time to read right now. Is there anything in your banks of past thought leadership pieces – articles, blogs, videos, podcasts – that can be re-purposed and shared in a different way online?
8. Video and podcasts are your friends.
If you have good content, our world is very forgiving about production quality. Podcasts and video can be easily made and shared on social media and by email.
9 Don’t be stupid
This is a bit of a reiteration of number 3 and 5, but I’m saying it twice because this is actually the number one law of communications in a crisis. Be sensitive to those who are ill, that may be isolated from loved ones, or who may have had a bereavement. I know it sounds like 101 stuff, but it is amazing how many people forget the basics.
How to market reinsurance from home
From a marketing perspective, tone of voice and looking at your messaging is going to be vital.
Think about the messaging behind every single action:
Events; If you are planning to continue to run an event, be really clear about why the event is still going ahead and how you are going to protect attendees. If putting on an event, will people think you don’t care about public safety.
Laying off staff or not paying them: If you are not paying staff but still issuing senior bonuses, what does that say about putting people first.
Financial targets: If you continue to push the same (pre-coronavirus) financial targets, what message does that put out to your clients, staff and others? Unrealistic, harsh… even negligent?
Is this the time to profit?
You may believe there will be business opportunities in the crisis, but it is vital that you do not communicate this in an insensitive way that makes you appear to be profiteering from this terrible crisis.
This is not the time for messages such as “one good thing is that hiring companies will have their choice of staff because so many will be unemployed post-coronavirus” or “this will spur on the hard market” – in non-insurance trade press it can be translated as your insurance premiums next year will go up thanks to coronavirus – we’ll make more money while the world burns”. People are experiencing high levels of anxiety, so it is essential that anything we communicate at this time is done in a way that is sensitive to this.
With a bit of give and take and understanding, most of the challenges facing the sector can be resolved. The most important piece of advice is to remember that everyone is in this together and that people will be struggling with many things – so be kind and thoughtful.