Tune In To Insurance Reality TV!


For two years now, I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that the industry’s lousy reputation is, for the most part, undeserved, and that carriers must take ownership of the problem and start touting all the good they do for society.  Then along came Bob Hartwig’s recent speech at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which pointed out that insurers don't get enough credit for all the lives they save and injuries they help people avoid.

(The speech by Mr. Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, formed the basis for NU's Nov. 2 cover story, which will be available online later today at www.property-casualty.com. I'll add a direct link when it goes live.)

Besides pointing out how many lives have been saved and injuries avoided because of the outstanding efforts of IIHS, Bob hailed the Institute for Business and Home Safety, which is working on its most ambitious project yet—the construction of an Insurance Center for Building Safety Research.

Bob also noted how workers’ comp insurers have helped make the workplace so much safer, as demonstrated by the continuing drop in loss frequency.

Last but certainly not least, he even cited the industry’s most fundamental concept—loss-based underwriting and pricing—for altering the risk management mindset of Corporate America, resulting in safer products, buildings and other goods and services.

The problem is most “civilians”—those outside the industry—aren’t aware of all the industry does to promote safety.

In my stump speech on “The Insurance Industry’s Reputation and Its Impact On The Bottom Line,” I suggest a TV show featuring insurers in action, with tongue only partially in cheek. But I am starting to think this could be a really good idea.

There is a reality TV show for everything these days. We’re grown way beyond “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race” to stick a camera into every aspect of life. Niche programs such as “Cake Boss” on TLC--featuring Buddy Valastro of Carlo's City Hall Bake Shop, right around the corner from our office here in Hoboken, N.J.—are drawing loyal audiences.

Sometimes, these programs can get pretty bizarre--such as “Hoarders,” which A&E pitches as “a fascinating look” at people “whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis.” So who’s to say an insurance reality show wouldn’t draw viewers?

In my speech on reputational risk, I urge insurers to take TV news crews into catastrophe areas with adjusters to show how they help people recover and rebuild their lives, often cutting checks on the spot from their mobile offices. That could easily be pitched as a reality show, “Masters Of Disaster,” with the happy ending being the restoration of homes and businesses—another popular theme in this genre.

I imagine IIHS could provide some pretty provocative video of crashes, showing how the organization’s work helps save lives and prevent injuries. Cars with a good rating from IIHS could be prime advertisers—promoting the relative safety of their vehicles.

IBHS might consider something similar on the non-auto property side, featuring the work that will be done at their new research facility once its doors are open. FM Global, with its own state-of-the-art property risk management lab, could play a part on the program as well.

Shows like this might not only be entertaining, but would portray the industry in a new and far more positive light—as people who care about their customers, and who go above and beyond to make sure we’re all safe and financially secure.

What do you folks think? What insurance reality TV shows might you suggest?

(The hilarious cartoon accompanying this post came off of the blog www.realitytvworld.wordpress.com.)

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