Monday, May 28, 2007

Top 12 tips we like

In a recent blog entry in "What About Clients," which is geared to law firms, I found an excellent blog entry on customer service.

Rather than paraphrase it here, I'm going to let the entry speak for itself (click on the blue link).

I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly with this entry. The client is number one. Deliver more than he or she expects and you'll keep clients for a long while.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Reaching out to the media

Last week I spent three days with the nation's top business journalists and editors. I came away with a few thoughts.

In one seminar I attended, the speaker asked the room of about 100 journalists how many of them had ever owned a business. Less than 10 percent raised their hands. Yes, they cover business, but I'm not sure that, even with many years of watching various industries, and there were many industry-specific experts there from finance to housing, most journalists really understand what it takes day in and day out to run a business successfully. So perhaps it's no surprise when they interview you and either miss the mark or focus on the negative.

What can insurance executives do to ensure better media coverage? There's several things.

Let's start by looking at the recent Greensburg, Kansas tornado. I noticed a Yahoo headline that said "Insurance industry performs well after tornado." Finally, I thought, the industry gets some faint praise. When I clicked on the article, however, go figure: It was written by an insurance industry trade group.

Why isn't local or national media covering how well the industry performs, instead focusing on how certain carriers drop the ball after catastrophes? Even if industry groups and insurance carriers put out press releases to say "Hey, we did a great job here," journalists rarely read press releases. And if they did, they're going to take a jaundiced eye at companies promoting themselves.

What's the answer? The seminar leader said that it is imperative that insurance companies build relationships with journalists before problems arise. That way, when companies want to get their message to the media, whether it's after a disaster or when the company does something good, you can simply pick up the phone and, perhaps, get some favorable coverage for a change.

The speaker at this seminar also emphasized it was important to be forthcoming even if mistakes are made. If your company ends up with a public relations nightmare, wouldn't it be great to be able to pick up the phone, call journalists by name because you've already built relationships, and tell them your side of the story?

Perhaps starting at the local level would help. Why not reach out to your local newspaper and talk with your business journalist? Don't focus on what he or she can do for you; focus on what you can do for them. Perhaps offer to clarify questions they might have when they arise. Maybe they'd visit your company where they see the various departments to learn what an underwriter does or how your claims department works.

Don't expect a reporter to understand your business. The onus is on you to build media relations before you need them. It will pay off.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Make the most of your training

I participated in a teleconference today sponsored by the Society of Insurance Trainers and Editors and hosted by the Insurance Institute. Much of what was discussed was the issue of training younger generations, who, as one participant put it, leave school in a state of "permanent partial attention."

This is the first true television and Internet generation and they live, he remarked, in a state of perpetual multi-tasking. (He then joked that some of us on the teleconference were probably multi-tasking. Yes, I was guilty of it, I was checking my e-mail at the time.)

In addition, he believes some members of this generation learn only what they need to learn then discard the knowledge, bringing their test-cram college mentality into the workforce. What can trainers do to help Gen Xers and Ys retain knowledge? One good tip was to set some training ground rules. Insist students to turn off cell phones, PDAs, and yes, their laptops if they have access to wireless Internet.

Next, since class participants often leave classes using 25 percent of what they learn, one trainer asserted that you can improve that rate to 90 percent if you involve supervisors who will reinforce, coach, reward, and encourage trainees in their newly learned skills. Supervisors must reinforce what is taught in the classroom or, no matter how sophisticated the training, it will fail.

Training, they insisted, must come from trainers who understand the cultures, the practices, and the processes of the insurance industry. Real-world examples are critical to learners, because if they cannot contextualize what they hear, no matter how smartly packaged the information, it is virtually useless.

It's also useful to provide access to experts in the subject whom students, post training, can email or call for additional help when they need it. This allows students to put their knowledge into practice with the help of an expert mentor and without fear of ridicule for asking questions.

Finally, they believe, you must instill in insurance students that their insurance education is lifelong to ensure their success. I know when I earned my professional designations I was making a statement: That insurance wasn't my job, it was my career.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Top 10 reasons to hire Insurance Writer

  1. Not many writers are enthusiastic about insurance. I am! An enthusiastic copywriter delivers great copy on time.
  2. Few writers understand insurance and risk management. As a second-generation insurance professional with over two decades of experience, I do.
  3. I have almost two decades of copywriting experience.
  4. I have strong grammatical and writing skills.
  5. I am dependable and a “solution" to your marketing problems.
  6. I work well under tight deadlines.
  7. Because my overhead is low, my rates are affordable.
  8. I make your life easier by taking writing out of your busy schedule so you can concentrate on your bottom line.
  9. I understand your business, which means working with me takes less time.
  10. We never have to meet if you don’t want to. 90 percent of my work is completed by phone and electronic mail.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Society of American Business Editors and Writers

I'm pleased to say that I recently won a scholarship to attend the Society of American Business Editors and Writers annual conference in Anaheim. There were only four scholarships awarded throughout the nation and I was the only freelancer selected.

I've been blessed throughout my life to win quite a few scholarships, in fact, most of my college education was paid for by various academic scholarships.

Each step I've taken to improve my training and my professional education has paid big dividends. If you've never considered obtaining a professional designation like the Associate in Claims or the Associate in Reinsurance available through IIA, I'd encourage you to consider it. You feel great the day you can put those initials after your name.

What better investment is there than to invest in our own education?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Risk management at its finest

The elk here have their own crossing. This is the turnoff from Banff to the Highway 1 near Calgary, I'm told. This was a natural elk crossing, and with so many accidents, they finally built the animals (these may actually be caribou, I'm not sure) their own access.
It's a great idea and as insurance carriers wrestle with deer and other claims resulting from animal strikes, perhaps they'd want to chip in. Or not.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Writing coaches

An interesting editorial in Business' Insurance's April Industry Focus touched on an issue I'd blogged about a few weeks ago. Big changes are heading our way as Generation Ys enter the workforce.

Editor Ronn Zolkos (he's obviously a Gen Xer; notice the spelling of his first name!) commented on a problem discussed at the Finance and Insurance Workforce Summit recently in Chicago. That problem is the poor writing ability of Gen Ys.

Apparently, constant instant messaging and e-mailing has enabled a generation to skip grammar almost entirely. Although highly competent technically, members of this generation may lack even rudimentary writing skills.

Zolkos recommends hiring writing coaches for the Yers who struggle with writing' write. He called hiring a writing coach a "perk." Others managers may, as they struggle with this critical issue, call it a "necessity."