How Franklin Mutual Insurance adjusted messages for the COVID-19 crisis

The insurance provider had to pivot from planned outreach during the health care crisis to find ways to bring everyone together.

When the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a grinding halt, Franklin Mutual Insurance had to make a choice.

Should they go ahead with campaign they had been planning—or should they throw out their plans and try to address the crisis in the moment? They opted for the latter, a move that has paid off already according to Chelsea Vander Groef, assistant vice president of marketing for FMI.

We asked her to share her takeaways from her work during this crisis, and here’s what she had to say:

PR Daily: How are you changing your messaging during this crisis?

Vander Groef: We completely changed our spring campaign just before it launched because we felt the messaging would not resonate during the current COVID-19 crisis. Headlines like “Live More, Worry Less” and images showing groups of people … did not reflect the current situation we are all living in. The “Live In” campaign evolution was created to respond to the way that our policyholders, our agents, our employees and our communities are experiencing life right now—with a focus on remaining positive.

Beyond the campaign, we are taking care to communicate frequently with all of our audiences to make sure they know that we are operating business as usual—from our homes—and that they should not expect disruption in our service.

PR Daily: What are the key messages brand managers should focus on right now?

Vander Groef: We are very much focused on our commitment to the health and well-being of our insureds, our agents, and our employees. We believe that positivity can have a significant impact on that health and well-being, and we hope our “Live In” campaign will help people focus on the joy they can find in the unique moments that are being created while acknowledging our current reality.

For example, “Live in Harmony” shows a family embracing the opportunity for an impromptu dance party while “Live in Balance” reminds us about the importance of self-care.

PR Daily: What channels are the most effective at the moment?

Vander Groef: Our “Live In” ad campaign is running on digital channels as the most effective to reach our audiences, who are using digital more than ever before as a way to stay connected during this crisis as they work from home, go to school from home, and video-socialize from home.

We are also leaning heavily on digital communications to keep our agents up to date with the latest information. And we are leveraging our website to make sure our policyholders know we are here for them, including providing assistance to those with financial difficulties by extending billing deadlines and waving fees.

PR Daily: What mistakes should communicators take care to avoid?

Vander Groef: Communicators should be extra mindful of the heightened emotional state that people are living with right now and be compassionate, honest and authentic. One mistake to avoid: Don’t assume that all of your existing, approved communications will be received the way they were before the COVID-19 crisis.

Taking the time to review all of those communications through today’s communication lens can help brands connect even stronger to their audiences and avoid potential backlash for messages that might seem insensitive or otherwise appropriate.

PR Daily: What audiences are the most important to engage?

Vander Groef: All of our stakeholders are important to engage with our message.

Our ads are intended for people who are in need of insurance, but our messaging should also engage our agents, our employees and our communities. We are all living in this world together during these uncertain times, and we have all experienced significant changes in our “normal” day-to-day living.

We want to be as helpful as we can to as many people as possible, and that includes finding ways to help the local communities where we live and serve.

PR Daily: Any lessons that you have learned from your efforts? What are your key takeaways?

Vander Groef: We’ve definitely learned that the current public psyche is important to consider when developing any creative campaigns, and I think brands will be placing more importance on this going forward. We are also seeing the role of “home” changing in our lives right now, and that will likely impact our marketing efforts as well.

PR Daily: Anything that gives you hope for the future?

Vander Groef: I am seeing a lot of positive messaging and am hopeful that brands continue to embrace this trend with their campaigns. I’m also seeing a lot of remote team building resulting from the increased internal communications that many brands are experiencing, and I’m hopeful that trend will continue as well.

The more teams feel connected, the better we can all perform together.



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