Utilizing social media in a highly regulated and traditional industry like insurance comes with it's own set of unique challenges. I recently spoke to Keith Lewis of Zurich Insurance in the UK to learn how they're facing these and using LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to tell stories to their target audience.
What are some of the challenges that Zurich faces with social media?
"We're a highly regulated area and different regulations apply to different parts of the business that we operate - we always have to be very acutely aware of that when we're operating in the space. But it's mainly around the actual selling of insurance. So in my mind, I divvy what we do into two brackets; We're obviously there to sell products around all the different things that we've already talked about, but we're also there to talk about Zurich as a company in the UK. We've got 22 locations here, we've got 5,500 people who work across all sectors.
So we use social a lot to tell the Zurich story - or start to tell the Zurich story - about how we operate in our local environments. Because, of course, as a big company, we've got all the usual things you might expect us to do. But people don't necessarily associate insurance with things like that. So we've got a big community trust, all our employees do two or three days of charity work at least a year. We do our local engagement around our different sites. We do lots of different things, that's all part of telling the Zurich story, really."
What are your social media objectives?
"Of course, we need to drive business value from it, and so I take sort of Andrew Grill's definition from IBM of social business, and of social media. So creating networks and building collaborations to tell the stories, but it has to drive a value. So into telling the story, we've got to make sure that people see us as perhaps an employer of choice or someone they want to work with, or actually recognizing that we do all the things that I've talked about. But also we've got to try and make sure that people are aware that your average consumer or business owner or executive is aware of the importance that insurance has.
Insurance, god it's dull isn't it?" Frankly it is, it's not the sort of glamorous product that you'd naturally associated with social media. We don't actually have a product that people have in their properties. We used to have an insurance certificate, nowadays that's just electronic. People very rarely get excited about their renewal premiums coming in. So we have to find ways, interesting ways, of explaining what we do and the value that we offer to whatever it is that the customer wants."
How do you go about generating a story telling culture inside the business?
"It's a part of the thing we've not really done very well at in the past and we're now recognizing that, perhaps that I've come into the role helps do that. To kind of free people up. We're very much, we're very conservative organization and the structure and culture of the organization has been like that for years, as you'd expect perhaps from a complex regulated world. That we're inherently nervous about allowing people to speak out loud. But now with social, the world has changed. Social has absolutely shifted that.
Now we're reversing that, all those decades of culture that we've had and changed, trying to change that. So part of my role is to get out across all our UK offices, to give people permission really. They thought for a number of years they weren't allowed to talk about Zurich and talk about all the good stuff that we do. Or even the real small stuff that we take for granted in sharing some of that content. But we've now got it written into our, what we call Zurich Basics, which is our global sort of behavioral framework. Zurich Basics tells, makes it explicitly clear that all our employees can operate in a social media environment about work related matters. If they chose not to, that's fine."
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithLewisComms.