Editor’s Note: A Little Polish

In the aftermath of the Spitzer investigations, it’s understandable why the insurance industry might feel battered and bruised. Some state insurance departments are considering new disclosure regulations, and consumers have become more leery of insurance agents and brokers, thanks in part to the negative public image perpetuated by the mainstream media.

Ann Marie Marson of James River Insurance Co. was one of many who voiced her concerns at the recent “The New Ethics of Insurance,” seminar hosted by the eastern chapter of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (See “Industry Conduct after Spitzer Shows Old Habits Die Hard” on page 63). The industry’s low standing in the court of public opinion could make it more difficult for claims departments to do their jobs, she said.

A cloud does appear to be hovering over the industry-at least in the short term. However, the situation is not as dreary as you might initially think. Because when you pull back the curtains weighing down the morale of companies today, you’ll find numerous examples where the picture of the insurance industry is much prettier.

Take, for example, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. The company has announced an initiative to award grants to rebuild damaged fire departments. As another example, numerous insurance companies across the country have donated money and resources to provide relief for those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And last month in California, more than 2,600 insurance agents and brokers volunteered their time to nonprofit and community groups during the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s Annual Volunteer Week (See “CA Insurers Turn Out in Record Number” on page 10).

The instances where insurance agents and brokers are aiding their customers and communities are much more prevalent than instances of fraud. And these efforts are worth applauding.

So how can the industry transform its image from the bad guy to Mr. Clean?

Instead of lamenting that the industry is suffering, build up your image with better PR. Whenever you or your employees have done something well, let your local media representatives hear about it. Get to know the key press contacts in your area, and find out their preferred method of receiving news releases.

Your goal isn’t to pull the rug over the media’s eyes. But let’s face it; the insurance industry’s image is a little tarnished. And if you put a little elbow grease into creating a continual dialogue with your local journalists and other community members, I think you’ll soon learn that you can benefit from just a bit of polish.