Less Poking, More Broking! What the industry wants from social media

The insurance world is overcoming its fear of Social Media and realising the growing need for having a presence on channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter. However, knowing why and where to be on social media is not enough. The key to success is in knowing the types of content to deliver and how to deliver that content to the right audience. Social media is about engagement and encouraging your audience to, believe it or not, socialise with your brand. Although the clue is in the name, it is all too easy to forget that communicating via these networks should be focused on what your audiences want to gain from following you.

The buzz surrounding the #BIBA2014 and #BIBAFever hashtags last week demonstrated that brokers are catching up with the idea of online socialising and increasingly turn to these channels seeking relevant and timely information.

So what do brokers want?

According to Insurance Age’s latest Spring Sentiment Survey, the majority of brokers (86%) want product information, implying that insurers’ content on social channels should be a visually appealing, informative showcase of their products.

However, content should never be 100% selling, and needs variety to spark attention and engagement.

Respondents could select more than one option, and over 45% said they follow insurers hoping for opinion or thought-leadership pieces via social media. 44% think the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn should be used for business updates during surge claims events, while only 11% are impressed by amusing posts.

What types of content do you engage with most??


[photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa]

And the winner is...

Many of you will know that for a few years now Lamb CMC have created the theming for Post Magazine’s annual British Insurance Awards. Seeing this year’s shortlist being published always gives us here a timely reminder of what a great event this is and how the reputation of winning a “BIA” have helped drive some stellar work by all those who feel it worthy of submitting their efforts for stringent, objective and external scrutiny. As a business that has the word brand at the spiritual heart of everything we do, we take our collective hat off to all those that made this step and would congratulate them in equal measure as those that have been shortlisted and the eventual winners. Within the insurance industry “brand worth” is something that is sometimes not properly understood or appreciated to itself, but the metrics that define it are. It is a sector that is utterly driven by reputations at the corporate or personal level founded upon trust. Another word for which could be truth and it is the ability to show this across the business and more importantly deliver it in its service offerings that truly define a real winner.


When we look at a business’s brand, we look to four key facets that we believe define it:

Authenticity – How ‘true’ does the business remain to its original vision

Compelling – What emotional connection does the business make with its clients

Distinctive – How different is the business to others/competitors

Excellence – Does the business offer any unique service or skill and is it good at it/a leader


To us a good brand has to deliver on all four. Any failing within any of these can, in our mind, cause an imbalance that will mean the business will never reach its full potential and stand out amongst a “Night of the Champions”.

Craig Freeman interviewed by Insurance Age about social media

Craig Freeman, director of digital services at Lamb and brandformula, was interviewed today by Insurance Age about social media engagement in the insurance industry.  Read the article below to gain an insight into his expert thoughts on the topic.

Craig Freeman, director of digital services at brandformula has revealed that he has seen a “huge sea change” in the way brokers engage with social media although he is yet to experience chartered brokers using it to promote their status.

Mr Freeman, told Insurance Age: "In the last 18 months we have had a broker get in touch every other week asking us to come in and talk about digital which is a huge sea change from just over three years ago."

According to Mr Freeman, an expert at the specialist B2B branding agency which has a particular strength in financial services marketing, in the past brokers were worried about finding out what was being said about their companies on social media because the bosses may not be pleased.

"It [the change] has been driven by the smaller brokers initially who were willing to take a little bit of risk," he claimed adding that the two most relevant avenues from a professional stand point are Twitter and LinkedIn.


"LinkedIn is an extension of the traditional way of doing business [such as] networking and shaking people's hands," explained Mr Freeman. "It is the relationship they have offline in an online environment."

He listed the reasons for brokers to connect on LinkedIn as including getting involved in groups, professional development opportunities and the chance to associate with their peer group to share ideas and insight.

Turning to Twitter he said: "If they [brokers] have got good content on their website and have people in their business who want to communicate then Twitter is brilliant.

"But our advice is always to focus back on the website."

Two potential mistakes that Mr Freeman has seen are having out of date content or too basic a homepage whereas he advocates that the call to action on Twitter should be to visit the website.

One way that he suggests brokers can generate interesting, engaging content on their website is through a weekly staff meeting.

He recommends that staff highlight questions they have been asked that week or articles they have read which they have found thought provoking. In turn the company should generate a 300 word blog for specialists to distribute on social media.

Massive time waster

"Social media can be a massive time waster if they [brokers] are not doing it in the right way," he pointed out.

"I know a lot of brokers who have spent an hour on Twitter and haven't talked to anyone useful or posted anything of use."

An area of social media that he sees as coming back into fashion for the right sort of brokers is Facebook.

"Lot of brokers are getting more savvy with the content," stated Mr Freeman.

It has been a notoriously difficult platform to sustain with interesting and engaging content and certainly will not be right for every broker. His advice is to make sure that "there is an underlying education message as well as the value adding entertainment area which is what drags people in on social media."

Chartered opportunity

However for chartered status it appears there remains more opportunity than delivery.

Mr Freeman admitted he had yet to be asked to promote chartered status although he has proactively told chartered clients to use it to their advantage, particularly on LinkedIn.

"If you do have chartered status tell people and make people it is on there [LinkedIn]," he urged.

"Things like LinkedIn are your shop window and what people will see first.

"The more you can do to show that you are professional, credible and knowledgeable the better and chartered status is part of that."

See the article on the Insurance Age website.

10 Tips for effective brand guidelines

Lamb CMC's list of their top 10 tips for creating effective brand guidelines.

We get asked a lot about brand development and guidelines. So rather than posting again about how to create an engaging brand (which Mark touched upon briefly in a previous post), this post is a quick guide to 10 of our top tips to producing brand guidelines.

A well considered document will ensure the guidelines are effective at communicating your brand and describing how to produce it consistently without killing the ability to be creative with it.


1. Who are the guidelines for?

Consider who is going to be receiving, reading and using these guidelines and tailor the content accordingly. Write with language to engage that audience. Steer clear of jargon and try not to assume technical knowledge if it is going out to all levels within the company. Consider the benefits of multiple versions of guidelines; a technical production reference, a quick guide one sheet for logo and colour use, more indepth guidelines including brand personality, tone of voice, etc.


2. Keep it simple

We appreciate that this is easier said than done but if you want your guidelines to be embraced by all then you need to ensure that what you are explaining is easily understood. The extra time it takes to consider how to simplify the use of your brand now will save a lot more time in future; time that would be spent amending the guidelines retrospectively to verify what you meant originally.


3. Design the guidelines in your brand style

Make sure the document you are producing is truely representative of your business and embracing your brand. If your brand identity is a quirky, young, energetic feeling then make sure your guidelines aren't stuffy and dictorial.


4. Show clear examples of your brand in use

This tip is often surprisingly overlooked in many brand guidelines documents we see. How better to explain how to use your brand than to show it in various real-life examples as you intended.


5. Consistency

Make sure when explaining your brand that it is consistent in how it recommends use of your company's brand. If you are contradicting yourself every other page then what hope will the reader have of understanding how they are supposed to use your brand.


6. Keep tracks of where your brand is used

This tip is more specific to the visual identity aspect of your brand but worth including in your brand guidelines. If there are ever any changes to your logo, colours, font, etc. you need to be able to track back wherever the previous version has been used so that you can replace with the updated version. Examples could include stationery, website, intranet, aggregator sites, affiliate marketing, social networks, email footers, presentations, document templates, signage, etc.


7. Make your materials available

The number one reason we see for inconsistent use of a brand identity is down to staff hoarding out-of-date materials and not having access to a library of correct files. Eliminate this issue by setting up a download section on your website where all logos, current guidelines, imagery, etc. are stored and are easily available to all. Make it password protected if you must but trust us, it's a lot easier to update one set of logos online compared to replying to hundreds of individual emails requesting these marketing materials from various people in your company.


8. Involve your staff

If you want your staff to embrace your new brand then they need to truly feel like it is theirs. They need to understand why and how you have developed their brand and they need to understand how to use it going forward. Form a project team consisting of staff from all levels within your company who might encounter the guidelines and get regular feedback from them during guidelines development. Do they understand the document? What improvements do they suggest would help with the guidelines? What can you do as a company that will make it easier for your staff to use the brand? Involving your people on the ground and getting their feedback can throw up some great issues that would never have been appreciated within the marketing department alone.


9. Have a sign-off process

Assign a brand manager within the company who has been involved with the brand development process and understands your brand inside out. Stipulate that all new creative should be approved by this person and give them a 48 hour turn around period to allow this. This is especially important in the early days of a new brand while staff and external agencies are still getting to grips with any new styles. By doing this you will be able to ensure that you are delivering a consistent and correctly applied brand message to all communications leaving your company.


10. Review your guidelines regularly

The aim of guidelines are to explain, advise and guide use and reproduction of your brand. That doesn't mean that your brand is set in stone from now to eternity. Your brand will continue to evolve and guidelines must be revisited and updated continually and then made available to all again. And to this end, make sure you include version numbers and not just on the front page. Ensure you include the document version number on every page incase the document ends up getting split and passed around internally which invariably it does.


 So to recap:

  1. Who are the guidelines for? Write them accordingly
  2. Keep it simple to understand
  3. Design the guidelines in your brand style
  4. Show clear examples of your brand in use
  5. Keep your instructions consistent
  6. Keep tracks of where your brand is used
  7. Make your materials available
  8. Involve your staff
  9. Have a sign off process
  10. Review your guidelines regularly


There is just one more thing... Involve the professionals early on

We really recommend consulting a professional branding service to help you with any brand creation, development or guidelines. The same issues come up again and again and we know what to look out for and how to avoid certain pitfalls with preemptive planning and briefing which will ensure your branding project runs smoothly and successfully.

Twitter - Can you afford to not be part of the conversation

We've all heard about the benefits of getting your business represented on Twitter and connecting to your network of customers but have you considered what the consequences of ignoring this social network might be? Potentially there could be a P.R. storm brewing around your company reputation while you are oblivious to it. We had a bit of bother here this week, when one of our clients, became the victim of some spurious tweeting as they had been erroneously identified as a company that has been making unsolicited calls about pursuing mis-sold PPI policies. I think we all know about these calls, texts & emails that are unwanted and intrusive. The details of this episode are of no more importance so we will spare names, etc. But it raised a very serious issue about reputation management if you have a Twitter/social media presence, as our client does or if you do not, which we feel is worthy of a few mentions here.

Shockingly, given that the company had been mis-identified, they became the victim of some brief but quite spiteful tweeting, which had it gone unnoticed, could have caused a nasty bump in their reputation. By its nature Twitter is at its best when breaking news and the story spreads fast and wide. As it was both we and they got on top of it and wrote a suitably worded email to the person that posted it, pointing out the error and demanding an apology. Which for the record was willingly given, the tweet deleted and an apology posted.

However it raises point number one. Twitter is a written medium in the public domain and as such is bound by all the same libel laws and protections as anything else similar, like a Facebook post, a comment on Linkedin or an email (where there is now strong legal precedent). It is therefore incumbent upon anybody posting anything that they remember this fact and think twice before submitting anything controversial.

On the flip side I think our client handled their own situation perfectly and responded straight away, made direct contact, politely pointed out the error and demanded the withdrawal which is point 2. In an environment like Twitter, necessary responses really must be thought through but as far as possible, immediate, time can quickly become an enemy.

What has really got me thinking though, is point 3. What had happened had our client not had a Twitter account and were blissfully unaware that a reputation fire was burning around them. The simple truth of social networks is that in reality there is no opt in or opt out, the only difference is if you are not active then you have zero control over the conversation, but if you are then you have the opportunity to be proactive and shape what is being said.

The statistics of what is posted on Twitter are staggering; 250 million tweets per day, over 100 million active Twitter users and if like me you are part of that community then you will see first hand how breaking news spreads instantaneously across it. Perhaps the most famous example being the posting of the amateur film when the plane came down in the Hudson River, or the death of Amy Winehouse beating the BBC to spread the sad news.

This subject is particularly relevant at the moment due to the news this week regarding the jailing of a student who made racially offensive comments about footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter. This is another example of how comments made online can be treated every bit as seriously and are governed by the same laws of libel as comments made in the press or elsewhere.

So I am pleased that our client has escaped the clutches of a bad press day this week but I am now just a wee bit more worried, nay paranoid about whatever else may have been missed. My advice, join the conversation and of course, make sure you use an expert to help you. As you know the Lamb door is always open for a cup of tea and a chat...

Linked in to LinkedIn?

Mark Huxley speaks about his continuing love affair with LinkedIn, the importance of staying connected with industry peers and how he has rekindled various old professional relationships that might otherwise have been lost. He discusses why LinkedIn is such a crucial social media tool for professionals worldwide and what you might be missing out on if you choose to ignore it.  ______

I have been a member of LinkedIn for quite some time now and to me it has become an integral part of my working life. I love the connections I have made, more so I have relished the countless numbers of my own working past that I have reconnected with. I follow many of the debates that the Groups throw up with a passion and it has become an automatic go-to place for much of the research I do. I cannot then fathom those that I speak to who refuse to use it or have a closed mind to all the benefits it can bring.

I think it is the truth to say that LinkedIn is the single form of professional social media that we recommend to every single client we work with. To me it is the world’s largest online directory of professional people, the companies they work for, the Groups that interest us all, the endless volumes of research and communication tools as another tool. None of us would not use the phone or email, so why would someone elect not to use LinkedIn?

Some statistics…

  • 150 million users Worldwide
  • 8 million users in the UK
  • 2 new members sign up every second
  • Circa 4.2 billion searches made on it in 2011
  • More than 2 million companies now have profiles on LinkedIn

So why do we advocate it so widely? Firstly and most importantly, unlike all other social media channels it exists for one reason alone; it is purely for professional people undertaking their professional lives. In that task, it cannot be doubted that they have utterly succeeded.

If you make the leap of faith and start using it, after some polishing of your LinkedIn skills (which many a trained professional can help you with) you will soon be:

  • Keeping in touch with an entire network of people, crossing many professional boundaries. With their own activity everything will be current, saving you lots of hard work in keeping track of what they are up to. Don’t forget friends beget friends, so you will be able to constantly build your own network, sharing friends old and new
  • You can invite your rolodex of business cards to come join your network
  • Share and collaborate upon what you are working upon and for that matter anything of wider interest to you and them
  • By joining the myriad of Groups that it has, you can drill into specific sectors and topics, seeing the current thinking and rumours on the street.
  • Actively join in discussions, either asking questions or sharing sagely opinions
  • Keep in touch with companies that are of specific interest to you, who’s joining, who’s left, what are they doing right now
  • Research more about the people you are going to meet for the first time. What is their role at the company, how long have they been there, where did they come from, what have they done in their past
  • Take out one of the paid for packages and you can see who’s been looking at your profile, really helpful if you’ve been targeting a specific person or company

Frankly the list is endless and every day LinkedIn creates new services that are aimed at making all our professional lives just that little bit easier and more interesting. If I finish with one word of caution, then it is that LinkedIn is only a tool, like your phone or email. The real art of networking is still the face-to-face time that makes the whole working relationship work. They are still founded upon friendship that harbours trust and builds the opportunities to prove worth in work, act or deed, which leads to the long-term relationship. This must never ever be forgotten!