When I suggested during a recent speech on how to improve the industry’s lousy image that insurers make use of their army of employees as good-will ambassadors, I was pigeonholed by very nervous executives who complained their legal departments would never allow such an initiative to be launched. If that’s true, the industry is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

My speech before the Society of Insurance Financial Management down in Boca Raton was headlined: “The Industry’s Image and Its Impact on the Bottom Line.” Anyone who thinks there’s no connection between the two–or worse, that public relations is some sort of “soft cost,” the return on which cannot be calculated–hasn’t been paying attention to all the negative headlines of late, and the state and federal hearings they’ve prompted.

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