Why UK Insurers Need the ‘Right’ PR

September 6th, 2021

Why UK Insurers Need the ‘Right’ PR

The insurance industry trade publication, Insurance Times, this week published an article under a title that put a skip in my step. It read, ‘Insurance sector must tap into ‘powerful tool’ of PR to repair reputation.’ I put two and two together. We ‘do’ insurance PR. We’ve handled insurance PR continuously since our foundation in 1998. Our first three clients were all big national-brand clients seeking insurance PR. I have actually handled insurance PR since 1993, when I was Swinton’s PR manager and in-house staff newspaper editor. I launched Privilege Insurance in 1994. The rest is history.

There are probably few agencies outside of London who have handled as much insurance PR as we have and we’ve represented clients from across the UK, from London to King’s Lynn, up to Leeds and across to Manchester. Draw the shape that emerges between those and you’ll find that we’ve also represented many other insurance clients in-between.

Our PR reputation in the insurance sector

All have come to us because of the reputation we have built in the insurance sector. We simply know our stuff, whether we’re promoting consumer insurance products sold direct, or commercial insurance products sold through a broker. Add to that promoting personal lines insurance products sold through a broker and we’ve handled it all!

Our very first awards were for insurance brands – Primary Direct and Bennetts Motorcycle Insurance. I recall the chairman of a prestigious PR organisation standing on the stage to announce not just the winner of a PR award, but the winner of the Grand Prix Award, for the best overall PR campaign in any category, and stating that the campaign deserved to win because, at face value, it was for a very “boring” product. I instantly knew we’d won.

Why insurance PR is so interesting

Not that I find insurance boring. Far from it. I absolutely love it. I relish the human interest that surrounds it, the stories relating to claims, the way it infuses life. That’s probably why we are able to pour so much into our insurance PR campaigns, lifting them from beyond the ‘boring’ and elevating them to the engaging and highly relevant.

Whether it’s the raw emotion that can accompany pet insurance PR, the need to make the compulsory purchase of motor insurance less of a grudge buy, by explaining the reasons why it’s so essential, or highlighting why a director cannot hide behind Limited Company status when it comes to liability claims, we try to do it in as exciting a manner as possible. I mean, who else would base the latter around ‘Line of Duty’?

Content writing for insurance briefs

We’ve always done this, through both PR and content. Content isn’t new. We’ve been creating insurance content for decades. It’s just that we used to use it in hard-print newsletters and magazines, quirky mailings and brochures. Nowadays, we work it hard for online content articles and content downloads, examining the stories behind insurance in just the same way and building insurance-sector thought-leaders, in many different segments of the insurance sector. Every piece or campaign we create is unique. The starting point is our individual insurance client.

Why the insurance industry needs good PR

So why does the insurance sector need PR so badly now? It’s all about reputational damage and the need to build bridges with all of the consumers that the industry let down during the pandemic, specifically businesses who had bought business interruption protection and saw coronavirus as a prime cause of business interruption. Refusals to pay claims have led to distrust of the insurance sector in general, causing reverberations throughout the sector and issues for those insurance providers who were actually blameless in the whole affair, as well as for those who are part of parent companies who went to war with their customers.

Added to this, for the first time in over a decade, we have a truly ‘hard’ insurance market. Insurers are trying to recoup losses that they have made over many years, through major incidents such as the Grenfell Tower tragedy but also as a result of climate change and a succession of serious floods, not just in the UK but around the world too. Cover limits are being reduced, new tighter wording is creeping into policies, some customers find they cannot even renew their insurance, as the insurer no longer wants their risk. It’s all adding up to a bit of an image crisis for the insurance sector.

Choosing a good insurance PR agency

My fear, however, is that insurance providers may indeed turn to PR, but look to big corporate PR agencies, who will be paid extravagantly, generate a few articles in national newspapers and think ‘job done’, without any ongoing creative plan as to how keep repeating messages and re-establishing trust. Lacking a true passion for insurance and the means to connect with customers at a grass-roots level, as they will typically be in very corporate-focused agencies, they will probably scratch the surface of what needs to be done to start to reverse the tide and get customers back on-side. This is a time at which insurers need to ditch the grey suits and add colour. It is a time when their PR cannot be ‘cold’ and distant. It is a time when they need the human touch in every single PR communication.

Insurers and insurance intermediaries need to present themselves as real people, reaching out to real customers, living real lives. They need to engage with communities and causes, in the way that I/we have proven is powerful, through our successive multi-award-winning campaigns for Northumberland Day and our long heritage in CSR and sponsorship promotion, for brands such as British Gas, Swinton, YBS, CIS and CFS, Green Flag, Britannia and many more. They need compelling online articles too, to make their credibility holistic, when consumers start to check them out.

Finding the right PR for your insurance company

So, ‘yes’, I agree that the insurance sector needs and, in fact, desperately needs to tap into the power of PR. It would be strategical suicide to rely on social media, to try to influence an audience that they have already lost and which will simply be annoyed by glib entertainment or attempts to raise awareness. The insurance consumer needs to be won back, using the tools for which PR is renowned – influencing, persuading, converting opinion and building advocacy. However, only the ‘right’ type of PR can do this and the PR campaign needs to be handled by PR people who ‘love’ insurance and have a real passion for it; by PR people who can reach into communities and win hearts and minds. PR people who care, in every sense of the word. Skimming Google and picking out a ‘big’ local agency, with no heritage in insurance PR whatsoever, will be a huge mistake and, yet, I know many insurers will make that error and not do their homework when it comes to seeking out a real insurance PR expert.

Should any insurer or insurance company want to talk to that expert, with a track-record of conducting dynamic insurance PR campaigns second to none, regardless of whether it’s for a pet insurance product or a fleet insurance specialist, just give me a call. I’m always happy to speak insurance PR and insurance content and one email to jane@catapultpr.co.uk will soon start the dialogue between ourselves and, possibly, the much-needed dialogue which you need to establish between yourselves and your target, currently insurance-jaded, customers.

By Catapult PR’s managing director, Jane Hunt