Six keys to insurance and reinsurance thought leadership

Few industries offer as many opportunities for thought leadership – that is, becoming a go-to resource for insights, research and information on key topics and issues – than insurance and reinsurance.

This industry interacts with firms in all other industries. It helps companies respond to sudden and unforeseen challenges. And, insurers and reinsurers must be attuned to trends concerning economics, markets, the climate, society and many other disciplines.

A few large, established firms in this industry have built strong thought leadership reputations. Reinsurer Swiss Re, brokers Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Aon, and other global companies have large research staffs generating regular studies and reports.

It’s not just for Goliath, but for David as well

Is thought leadership in insurance and reinsurance, therefore, the sole purview of such industry giants? Not at all. In fact, it remains an often-overlooked activity of many firms who, whether due to size, precedent or other factors, have not included it in their marketing strategies.

That’s a missed opportunity. In today’s marketplace, customers are turning away from advertising and other traditional marketing. Instead, they’re looking for sources they can trust for guidance and insight on business. They’re looking for thought leaders – and if insurers and reinsurers don’t provide leadership in their industry, prospects will turn to sources who can provide it, whether banks, investment firms, consultants or others.

Although media relations and speaking platforms offer insurers and reinsurers effective thought leadership venues, such firms now can also utilize “content marketing” for their thought leadership, sending it directly to prospects via blogs and white papers and then promoting it via social media so that it appears in all of the right places online.

Six keys to insurance and reinsurance thought leadership

Still doubtful that thought leadership could be a meaningful part of your company’s marketing strategy? Here are six suggestions for approaching an insurance or reinsurance thought leadership program:

Think big – industry-wide, nationally, or even globally. Yes, marketing your company’s latest product or coverage innovation is essential, and it’s important to announce important personnel appointments. Thought leadership, however, requires thinking more broadly. How might the rise of “Big Data” affect your clients and the risks they face? If your clients are in medical liability, what do they need to be learning about health care reform? What are the implications of climate change for the industry? What are the possible impacts on a pandemic for insurers – not only life insurers, but property-casualty as well? The possibilities are endless.

Think outside the industry. Many objective informational resources are available in this industry – the Insurance Information Institute, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the International Underwriting Association, the National Council on Compensation Insurance and others. Outside the industry, however, universities, think tanks, management consultants, government agencies and other entities also produce research and commentary on a universe of subjects, and can be a source of topics for your thought leadership pieces.

Listen to what people are talking about. This is an industry with a variety of events, conferences and regular “meet-ups” where conversations are plentiful and paramount. What current issues are on people’s minds? What topics concern them or what would they like to learn more about? There are many opportunities for such informal “sampling” of insurance and reinsurance executives for their ideas and possible thought leadership topics.

Talk with the marketplace, and measure it. More formal market research is also an important consideration, and can yield industry insights and data. Depending on the purpose and budget, this might involve precise, scientific market research, or other, newer alternatives – for example, a confidential survey via “Survey Monkey,” or quick polling through social media. These newer, less formal research tools can still provide useful snapshots of how executives view current industry issues.

Seek out the hidden experts – even in your own organization. It’s impossible to predict with certainty just where you might find topic experts. A friend of mine once worked for a life insurance company, and while having an informal conversation with a mid-level actuary he learned that the actuary, in addition to his job responsibilities, had been doing independent research  on life expectancies in specific states. That research eventually became the basis for an annual report on the “healthiest states,” which attracted the coverage of ABC’s Nightline, USA Today and many other news outlets.

Think ahead. Ever since the ancient Greeks visited Delphi to get the Oracle’s latest predictions, people have continually asked: what does the future hold? This industry is in the business of anticipating the future and, in a sense, making “bets.” The large amounts of data collected by insurers and reinsurers, and the experts who evaluate it, can help provide forecasts of what will happen in the future, and what the industry needs to prepare for.

A successful insurance and reinsurance thought leadership strategy

Several years ago, I led communications for a reinsurance company – a significant operation, but much smaller than the industry’s global giants. We undertook a marketing program that, because of budget limitations, utilized minimal advertising and other “paid” media but instead emphasized “earned” media coverage through thought leadership.

At the beginning of the program, we didn’t even register with the marketplace in terms of awareness of our brand. But after a couple of years we revisited the benchmark research. Not only did the marketplace, as a result of the program, perceive our company in the way that we had hoped, but also our market awareness had increased dramatically – to a level that vied with that of the industry’s major global brands.

The success was due to thought leadership. With a strategic thought leadership program as part of your company’s marketing mix, you can help position your firm to compete effectively – even with those “global giants.”