Branding and PR in Insurance - five questions with LPR and OB
This summer saw Lysander PR (LPR) and OB Brand Consulting (OB) launch a strategic partnership with a view to working together to further raise the profile of the global re/insurance sector and its technology providers.
In a true sign of our times, the partnership was forged remotely and continues via Zoom calls - we meet regularly in our little video boxes and only occasionally shout over each other as we flood the virtual room with ideas.
So what’s the thinking on the partnership then? Here are five questions with the OB and LPR team to further explore the PR, marketing and branding challenges and opportunities in our innovative market as we prepare for the autumn season.
What do you think the biggest branding challenges are for insurance businesses in 2020?
OB: It’s a big question, but there are three main answers:
Public perception and brand control - there’s a lot of background noise about insurance and public perception tends to skew towards the negative. So the challenge is breaking through that noise with a positive proposition, pitch and message that changes the narrative.
Digital transformation - times they are a changin’, and those insurers that are shaking off the traditional practices and embracing more agile platforms are inevitably finding they are becoming more streamlined, digitally enabled businesses. There is a competitive edge to be had here and branding can help communicate that.
Regulation, regulation, regulation - there’s no escaping from it, and quite right too. But the challenge from a branding perspective is that heavy regulation leads to ‘vanillarisation’ of product differentiation - leaving positioning, approach and ‘service’ often all that’s left to distinguish the product, together with the story behind the brand.
LPR: Everything they said!
Also we’d add the challenge of lack of brand equity with policyholders, particularly in SME commercial insurance lines. This is leaving a gap in the market for other, better known brands to step in - see Tesla, Amazon, etc - to launch their own insurance propositions, which join up / share data with many of their other products and services which makes a lot of sense. It’s something the industry has to recognise and act upon.
What do you think the biggest PR challenges are for insurance businesses?
LPR: We are lucky to work in a tenacious corner of the B2B media sector with lots of off-diary exclusives and independent journalism. It’s a challenge as clients like to plan messaging and have control, so managing everyone’s expectations when off-diary stories are presented, and maintaining excellent relationships with the media is the key here.
OB: Totally agree! We would also add that from what we’ve seen, differentiation is again key, there are a lot of digital platforms and initiatives out there - and they often generate an undifferentiated bombardment of comms. We think there is also a need for a more positive, progressive energy in a lot of the messages.
How do PR and branding work together?
OB: Both disciplines work together to reinforce a business’ proposition and amplify the key messages. It takes a lot of effort and thought to distill things and create a clear and simple singular proposition across multiple platforms. A co-ordinated communication and branding campaign is hugely powerful.
The PR side can also help define brand personality - especially during crisis management - it’s not the crisis, but how the crisis is dealt with, that can often define a brand.
LPR: It’s a match made in heaven of course. Any well-coordinated 12 month PR campaign must align with a company's commercial and branding strategy.
And we completely agree on the crisis management side. So much can be planned and coordinated, but a truly expertly handled brand will be able to stay ‘on message’ and provide the right response and maintain relationships even during an off-diary moment, when doorstepped at five o’clock on a Friday afternoon by a particularly tenacious journalist.
And that’s down to good media training and having that fundamental branding and PR coordination, plus protocols, in place.
What are the lessons you'd like to see the insurance industry take away from the pandemic crisis and lockdown?
LPR: We think as an industry there are some important lessons about technology and flexible working that need to be taken on board. Phrases like digital transformation, and work/life balance have been in the mix for far too long, and now under the lens of COVID-19 huge changes are being made.
If any positives will come from the pandemic crisis and lockdown it’s that, as an industry, we will be more open to negotiating and transacting business digitally, and to accepting home working as productive and positive.
We would also add that, reputationally, the insurance industry hasn’t covered itself in glory in some instances when it comes to the direct response to the pandemic in wordings, clauses and exclusions.
So much effort happens over years within our industry to effectively communicate all the positive stories and rebuilding / resilience efforts that we undertake, but it takes just a moment for this to come crashing down and the mainstream public perception to revert back to the feeling that all insurance is designed to ultimately impede claims payments under the caveat “read the small print”. So there are some clear lessons that can be learned in crisis management and communication here.
OB: Yes this openness to change, and ability to be more agile and more dynamic are definitely positive lessons that can be extracted from the awful pandemic crisis. We think as well on your last point, yes, it’s not just about individual companies being careful about their own brand, but being more respectful about the impact they can have on perceptions of the insurance sector as a whole.
Insurance businesses can now have an opportunity to lead the market - globally - and be the positive innovators that they are supposed to be.
What's next on the horizon for OB Brand Consulting and Lysander PR?
OB: World domination… but before that, we are laser focused on raising the profile of our specialist combined offering as market leaders - particularly aimed at challenger brands and disruptors. Those ambitious businesses looking to be agile, and to harness the power of excellent combined branding and communications to generate the business, and lead the conversations about positive change in our industry.
We’ve already worked hard with the Insurance Museum initiative and some of the very senior individuals backing that exciting project, so watch this space for further updates as we develop this. We are also seeing more insurtechs have a firmer grasp of agile, total campaign strategies and this is a really powerful and important dynamic, so we expect to see more traction here too.
LPR: Together with the excellent and talented OB team we plan to offer a more joined-up proposition to our existing clients, and are excited about how we can work together to offer an unparalleled expert branding and PR service going forwards.
We are a boutique, director-led PR agency but our team has grown a lot over the last few years, and this is certainly continuing apace. Many of our clients are international businesses and we have been busy building out our global partnership network, so watch this space as well for more news soon!