Posted on 06 Jan 10
In this issue, we’re featuring Nibby Priest of Vaughn Insurance Agency Company about the firm’s social media efforts. Vaughn Insurance is a relatively small agency with seven employees and is located in Henderson, Kentucky, part of the Evansville, Indiana metropolitan area. A General Lines insurance agency, Vaughn Insurance specializes in Professional Medical Liability insurance, and provides coverage for churches and religious organizations. Additionally, as part of its marketing strategy, Vaughn Insurance is always looking at different niches to incorporate in its mix.
Vaughn Insurance was originally founded in 1917 and has been owned by Nibby’s family since 1974. Nibby joined the agency in 1986 after graduating from the Insurance Studies Program from Eastern Kentucky University. From the beginning he was always interested in cutting-edge technology, and was one of the first to get his agency to interface with Maryland Casualty back in the ‘80s. In 1996-97, Nibby implemented the agency website, ensuring its constant evolution and that it never remains stagnant. With emerging new technologies and the advent of social media, changes to the website are more constant and more frequent.
I met Nibby at the Aartrijk Brand Camp where he participated in the Blogging Panel. I wanted to follow up with him about how his agency used social media to communicate with his customers and everyone in the community after a winter storm back in January 2009 hit the area.
Annie George (AG): Nibby, in one of our newsletter issues after Brand Camp, I briefly touched upon your foray into blogging. Let’s go into more detail here.
Nibby Priest (NP): “In January 09, when a severe ice storm hit our area, people were looking for information…like where to go to repair damages because so many businesses were closed. I had no way other than my Twitter feed or my personal FaceBook page to get information out. I didn’t feel comfortable using my personal accounts to convey information. So we created an insurance agency blog.
Once Nibby’s blog took off, the local newspapers and television stations starting picking up the information he was sharing on his blog and began disseminating it on a wider basis to the community.
“The blog made me an instant publisher,” says Nibby, “and I had never had that on the website in the past. Everyone wanted information and they couldn’t get enough of it. Some people didn’t have electricity and the only thing they had was a mobile device where they could read the blog posts.”
From the blog, an agency Facebook page evolved and Nibby set up a company Twitter account. Now, he also posts the agency blogs to the agency Facebook page, makes announcements on Twitter and puts the posts on his own personal feeder as well.
AG: How often do you post a blog?
NP: “Our goal is to generally have one post a week. Sometimes we may have more, sometimes we may go two weeks without a post, but we try to keep the blog fresh on a weekly basis.
“As far as agencies looking for content, there are many sources available where you can reproduce content as long as you attribute the source. Trusted Choice, for example, lets you use their material as long as you provide credit. We also have people in our agency contributing to our blog.”
AG: What do you say to agents that want to embrace blogging, but fear the time involved, or feel they can’t commit to writing the blog? These are hurdles to overcome. You have a small agency and are doing this, so what advice do you have for agents who are hesitant about social networking?
NP: “We say we are professionals. We are constantly telling the same story to our clients. We tell them about Replacement Cost coverage or the need for an Umbrella policy. So why not just write it up one time? It won’t take much time to write it. And once you write it, there’s documentation. When you explain something to your customer, you can refer to the article on your blog, and reinforce what is being said. It also provides a means of having everyone in the agency delivering a consistent message. Talk to your staff about the topics…your employees are the ones talking to customers every day. Perhaps your staff has a better way of saying something and can contribute to enhancing the message.
“Blogging…it’s pretty powerful stuff.”
AG: Another issue that agents are hesitant about is that people don’t know how to begin. At Brand Camp, some of the agents, especially the principals, said that they never heard of Word Press or Blogger, for example. What would you recommend?
NP: “ For those who are not technology-savvy, I would recommend watching a video on Twitter or Blogger. There’s a great video (http://help.twitter.com/portal) showing you step-by-step how to use it. Same with Blogger…Google owns Blogger and they have some incredible videos (http://www.youtube.com/BloggerHelp)…you just need to watch them a couple of times and you’ll get it.
“Also, whenever an agency starts to blog, they don’t have to publicize it until they are ready. They can be quiet about the blog for a few months. Even more important, have content first before you’re ready to promote it.”
Nibby used Blogger to create his blog, and he uses Microsoft Windows Live Writer, a desktop application that he feels makes blog writing easier and provides better control of graphics. Apple also has a product, ECTO, available at www.illuminex.com that facilitates blog-writing.
In addition to blogging, Tweeting, and having a Facebook page, Nibby also has a Chat feature on the agency’s website. The feature comes with an automatic transcript provided by a third-party service Nibby uses of what transpired during the call. We’ll be featuring this down the road when we meet up with Nibby again.
Inclement weather, a need for information, and technology that allows you to disseminate that information out in real time…the perfect storm for Nibby and his agency to become the community’s resource for all things insurance and so much more.