How many times have you heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” In this age of social media, where videos, infographics and pictures are being used more and more to tell the stories of our clients, sometimes it’s easy to forget how powerful words can be.
I had a reminder of this the other day when I was asked to read story entries for a client detailing how life insurance had greatly affected the lives of policyholders. Many of the stories shared intimate details about the unexpected loss of a loved one, yet explained how families or individuals have been able to move forward with their lives, free of financial worry, because they had life insurance.
The stories were very sad, but there was a silver lining. The people in these stories wanted their story told and shared, so others would see the importance of having life insurance coverage.
Most people know that life insurance is important and believe they should have it. In fact, according to a recent LIMRA poll, “more than 80 percent of Americans believe life insurance is valuable, but more than half of U.S. households don’t have enough life insurance.” So, the question is, how do we reach these consumers who realize the importance, but still take no action?
Let’s look at an anecdote from a 2012 LIMRA report:
“Years ago there were Airline Trip Insurance machines in airports offering life insurance for your airline trip at a cost of 25¢ for each $7,500 of coverage. Companies sold a lot of insurance this way, as the public ventured into the unfamiliar world of air travel. Many were afraid of flying and gladly purchased the insurance. In economic terms, this is a high price for just a few hours of term insurance; yet economics failed to stop fearful passengers. However, by the 1970s and 1980s people no longer bought flight insurance. The economics stayed the same, so why did sales dwindle to almost nothing?
Behavioral Economics explains this change in purchase behavior. It recognizes that emotions play an important part in the decision to buy the insurance; and that, over time, emotions change. When air travel insurance was popular, not only were people afraid that the airplane might crash, but they also worried what would happen if they did not buy the coverage. The insurance gave them peace of mind. As people’s fear of flying diminished, they no longer had a strong emotional reason to buy the insurance. The economic value of the insurance did not change, but the emotional component of the decision no longer existed.”
Now, I’m definitely not saying we should use scare tactics to motivate consumers to buy life insurance. I wanted to include this excerpt from the study to show that sometimes, decisions are not rational or based in fact. The people in the case study were buying life insurance on primarily an emotional basis.
Public relations gives us a chance to tell stories that appeal to the reader’s emotion – but the end goal is not to cause fear. It is to educate, grow awareness and hopefully incite positive behavior change.