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4 Ways to Change the Insurance Industry’s Bad Reputation

The insurance industry should come together to undertake a widescale and fully integrated campaign to improve its reputation.
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4 ways to change the insurance industry’s bad reputation

For many years, I have advocated for the insurance industry to coalesce in pursuit of a perception change. The industry clearly gets a bad rap. You hear people say insurance companies are not trustworthy, uncaring during times of need and only care about profits. For college students considering careers, we often hear that insurance is boring.

And is it true that the only child who ever said they want to go into insurance when they grow up was someone with a relative in the business. Or someone who guided them into the industry by helping to debunk the stereotypes and myths about the space. Tell me I'm wrong.

The industry has two major perception strikes against it: It's a bad and boring industry. People coming out of school today can't handle boring, and they certainly don't want to work for a company seen as doing bad in the world. But those who know a little something about insurance know that both of these perceptions are simply not true.

The fact is the insurance industry is one of the most caring and philanthropic around. People working in insurance are there to protect people, their loved ones and the property they own. Helping others is part of the insurance DNA, and the majority of insurance agents, brokers and underwriters are committed to serving their clients' best interests.

Industrywide charitable giving was more than $560 million between 2015 and 2019, according to McKinsey and the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF). Additionally, insurers and their charitable foundations donated an estimated $280 million in response to the COVID-19 crisis alone, according to the Insurance Information Institute. 

All the insurance brokers and underwriters I know support their hundreds of thousands of employees to volunteer in communities across the nation and around the world. The IICF alone has tracked more than 110,000 industry volunteers giving more than 320,000 hours of service through IICF volunteer projects. And 96% of independent insurance agents donate to charity with both their time and their money, according to a 2022 survey from Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance. Volunteerism is widespread and impactful in the insurance industry.

The industry is doing many good things in the world. It gives back—in a big way.

In regard to accusations of being boring, the insurance industry is far from it. I tell anyone who will listen, “don't knock it till you try it." Just from a PR professional's perspective, I've seen how colleagues reluctantly agree to take on insurance-related clients to lead communications, awards, executive positioning, brand activation efforts and more, only to fall in love with the complex topics, financial metrics and real implications of the work.

Managing risk is the foundation of decision-making and in today's world of volatility—from climate change to political uncertainty—weighing the risks and mitigating them is more critical than ever. It's an incredibly interesting space to be in and I highly encourage young people to give it a shot.

But, how do we change the long-held negative perceptions about the insurance industry? I believe that the insurance industry should come together to undertake a widescale and fully integrated campaign to improve the industry's reputation. That campaign should include such actions as:

1) Reach out to high school and college students. Show them the kinds of solutions provided by insurance and the possibilities for building careers in insurance.

2) Highlight how the industry gives back. More effectively measure and report the total philanthropic impact being made by the industry in terms of giving and volunteerism to consumers, businesses and government officials.

3) Get involved in current issues. Be more visible among business leaders on issues of climate change, health and wellness and other topics. Take a seat at the table among the thinkers and actors working to make the world a better place. Insurance executives should lead conversations at the local level and on national and international platforms like local chambers of commerce, TED, Business Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Building to COP, and so many more.

4) Call out the bad players for what they are. Let's not gloss over the fact that there have been some shady businesses in the industry in the past. Likely some still exist. Let's step up and call out those players and get rid of the bad actors.

We didn't get to this place of overarching negative perceptions about the insurance industry overnight, and those perceptions won't be shifted overnight either. But, if the industry comes together to more vocally explain its good work and more intentionally educate young people about the incredibly fulfilling careers to be had in insurance, there is no doubt in my mind that the industry's reputation would improve.

Amy Littleton is president at Reputation Partners, a national strategic communications and public relations firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

Monday, July 24, 2023
Agency Operations & Best Practices