Getting the Word Out
Arrowhead’s Tom Kussurelis discusses the role marketers play in communicating and navigating through global crises and what they need to do to gain value in their organizations.
- Lori Chordas
- May 2020
Global crises, such as the outbreak of COVID-19, can be challenging for marketers tasked with keeping the lines of communication open and flowing, and uncovering new ways to share those messages. But it can also be an opportune time to promote the strength and resiliency of their organizations and the value they provide to stakeholders, said Tom Kussurelis, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Arrowhead General Insurance Agency, a subsidiary of Brown & Brown.
“This is a time when brands are made, and how we behave now is something people will remember after the fact. It is during high-pressure times when our style and communications matter, and information shared during these times needs to be consumable, relevant and actionable,” he said. Kussurelis, the former chief marketing officer of the San Diego-based national program administrator and managing general agency, participated in a March 20 webinar sponsored by AM Best and the Insurance Marketing and Communications Association.
Following is an edited transcript of that interview.
What are some survival tips for marketers during a global crisis?
It's important to keep engaged with customers, teammates, carriers, producers and others, and to recognize that marketing and advertising plans that made sense prior to a crisis might not be as effective during the event.
Often insurance gets reduced to commodity. The relationships we have during a crisis and how we build upon those can move us beyond commodity and to deeper relationships at that moment.
One thing we stopped doing from a marketing perspective and tried to get our arms around ... was general broad-based communications for advertising products.
Things that we put in the queue [prior to the crisis] with different advertising sources that are now popping up, if we're not reviewing those with fresh eyes daily, can come across really tone-deaf.
You don't want to be advertising about some ancillary matter to a restaurant that is struggling to stay in business and you're talking to them about something that's completely irrelevant to their life at that moment.
That's not going to be a good way for people to remember us.
What do insurance marketers need to know and do to earn respect and value within their organization?
Marketing should be most concerned about the reputation of the firm and protecting the brand. Doing that creates an immediate connection to the highest levels of the organization.
Taking the posture of risk management first is very important. What we say matters, and it's important to connect and gain that respect for the reputation of the brand.
Across all communications, the golden rule always applies. Treat others as you'd like to be treated. That goes back to listening, speaking and building relationships.