From the April 2012 issue of American Agent & Broker •Subscribe!

Build Brand With Blogs

Blogs are another way to gather and disseminate valuable information

What do you get when you mix personal blogs with other blogs, websites and social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter? The answer is a powerful way to build and extend agent and broker brand messaging.

Interactive blogs are a potent means of expressing opinions and advice on wide-ranging insurance and risk management topics. In the never-say-die world of the Internet, blogs also live forever, serving to educate, inform and arouse the curiosity of readers well after publishing. For agents and brokers, blogs further serve the purpose of creating and maintaining another personal form of engagement with customers, fostering improved client relations in an effort to improve satisfaction and retention.

Not all blogs are alike. Some, such as those featured on PropertyCasualty360 (propertycasualty360.com/blogs) provide deep content on risk and litigation trends, loss prevention strategies and more industry-specific data like mergers and acquisitions. Other blogs, like RiskConversation .com, are more tactical—focusing on a specific area of risk affecting a particular market segment, such as fine-art exposures for high-net-worth individuals, cyber risks for media broadcast organizations, or managing the risk of wildfire for homeowners in fire-prone regions. 

All insurance blogs have value beyond the initial message, as links can be emailed globally, inserted by writers of other blogs, and transmitted via Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media outlets. James Kane, president of Chicago-based insurance brokerage HUB Personal Insurance, routinely blogs original content and also leverages other content and then sends links through his Twitter account, which currently has 85 followers and counting. 

Related: Read the article "Safe Passage" by Paul Morrissette.

“You would be stunned how much I have pulled from blogs like RiskConversation.com, propertycasualty360.com and all sorts of others written by attorneys and real estate planners,” Kane said. “I generally repurpose this information in my own blog and then tweet it.”

Kane said he recently met an attorney at a conference in Phoenix, whom he now follows on Twitter. “He works with physicians and imparted some very useful advice regarding litigation avoidance,” he said. “Needless to say, I reposted it the information on my blog, and sent a link to one of our people who works with high-net-worth doctors.”

A New Way of Communicating

Writing a blog may seem like hard work for people who don’t write for a living, but the truth is that no one is expecting the next Hemingway. Take the example of Michele Fogle-Sizemore, senior account director and communications and outreach leader Fogle Insurance Group. When Fogle apprised her father George, who founded the Huntersville, N.C.-based independent agency half a century ago, that she and her brother Doug wanted to upgrade interactive features to the agency’s website  and includes a blog written by Michele, he questioned whether it was necessary and how Michele would find the time to write it.

“My dad was used to doing things the same way he always had, which didn’t surprise us as he was quite successful,” Fogle-Sizemore said. “But we felt a blog would be a great way to reach certain people interested in particular topics, and he ultimately relented.”

The blog made its debut in October 2011, and in just a few months has generated a substantial volume of readers. “I just had a fellow who lives in Florida 7 months of the year call me,” she said. “A reader had emailed him a link to my blog on health insurance for people who live in two different states. He’s now a customer and a follower on my Twitter account.”

She has written on an array of topics that she feels are of interest to the agency’s current and prospective clients. These include blogs on fire safety at elementary schools, Medicare practicalities for soon-to-retire baby boomers, and Operation EDITH (Exit Drill In The Home), a home escape plan in the event of fire. Here’s a bit of her blogged advice: “Parents and children should check all smoke detectors inside the home and get familiar with the way they sound. Then plan a route of escape. Practice dropping to your hands and knees and get under the smoke. Remember the saying—Stay Low and Go!—and get out of the house.” 

Related: Read Paul Morrissette's article "Market to LGBT Community."

Both Kane and Fogle-Sizemore regularly provide links to other industry blogs in their own writings. Kane also posts his and others’ blog links in his LinkedIn account. “I recently included a link to a video from YouTube on the growing use of Concierge Medical services by high-net-worth individuals,” he said. “I’m sure people I’m linked to subsequently took what I presented and repurposed it for their own blogs. I do the same thing myself. The more people stay informed, the better prepared they are.”

Deepening the Brand

He makes a solid point. Blogs articulate a message in ways that permit wide-scale dissemination. Even better, they build on this message by including links to other blogs, websites and articles, adding layers of information to the message being presented. 

A blog that addresses the market value of diamonds, for instance, can be embedded in another blog providing tips on how to preserve the value of jewelry, which may subsequently end up in yet another blog on alternative investments to traditional stocks and bonds. 

Related: Read the article "InPersonal Lines, Weather, Economy, NFIP Top Concerns" by Chad Hemenway.

If there is one challenge to this treasure trove of information, it’s how to efficiently follow multiple blogs. Fortunately, there is a way—create a folder in your browser bookmarks with Web links to all your favorite blogs. Google Reader, one of many apps available from Google, also provides a way to aggregate and search all of your blogs on a single page. The app also allows you to differentiate between read and unread blogs, and mark posts that are your favorites. 

Not only are blogs an important source of information for agents and brokers, they ensure that readers stay updated on current events and topics of interest. Routine updates may be available, for instance, on a new regulation that might increase liability for a particular set of clients, or a recent tightening of coverage terms and conditions in a comprehensive general liability policy that could expose a customer to financial loss. 

Of course, writing a blog that addresses evolving insurance and risk management issues also presents readers with the opportunity to gauge the knowledge and expertise of the writer. By providing valuable information, the writer burnishes his or her reputation as a crucial advisor. A dialogue of one sort or another may commence, possibly guiding new business to an intermediary or strengthening the current relationship. 

The bottom line is that blogs build brand, and the denser the information, the more robust the readership. 

Some parting comments: Regularly log onto blogs like propertycasualty360.com and RiskConversation.com, and to the many others that follow a particular type of risk or line of business. Consider subscribing to other agents’ blogs to appreciate how they are creating value. And like Michele Fogle-Sizemore, just go out on a limb and give writing blogs a try. She did, and her business is better for it.

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