HOW DID A TINY TEAM FROM A SMALL COMPANY WIN TWO AWARDS ITS FIRST TIME OUT? BY PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES A BIT PAST WHAT WAS COMFORTABLE.
IMCA spoke with Amy Hourigan, director of marketing and communications for HAI Group, on her team’s two IMCA Showcase Awards and how she’ll push the boundaries in 2021.
Insurance Marketing & Communications Association: Congratulations on winning two IMCA Showcase Awards your first time out, Amy! How did these wins impact your team?
Amy Hourigan: Thank you. It was a wonderful surprise to learn we’d won! Even though we have a passionate and hardworking team, we didn’t think we had a chance of winning because we’re small and lack the budget of some of the bigger carriers. We already get a great deal of satisfaction in delighting our customers, prospects, and colleagues with creative work that inspires people to take action, so winning two Showcase Awards feels like a wonderful feather in our cap. The external validation—especially since we knew we’d be up against some fantastic work—was also really affirming. Finally, our CEO gave us a little shout-out in our all-employee meeting, which I appreciated, since I believe that a big part of my job as a manager is to make sure my team progresses in their careers and has visibility with senior leadership.
IMCA: Sounds great. Can you take us back to the beginning of the year and tell us how these projects came about?
AH: Sure. We won awards for two projects. The first was an Award of Excellence for our corporate social responsibility campaign. Our goal with that project was to promote our annual HAI Group scholarship program for low-income students, which awards 20 students with money to help cover the cost of higher education so they can focus on school. For years we’d promoted the scholarship to our customers—public and affordable housing providers—so they’d encourage their residents to apply. Applications weren’t always as strong as we’d hoped, though, so we were tasked with finding a new way to break through the clutter. The campaign came together when we realized how meaningful the scholarship recipients’ stories are, and how emotional they made us when we heard them. One student even said the world will soon have a new nurse thanks to our company! As every marketer knows, tapping into people’s emotions and telling stories are great ways to make an impact. Instead of just talking about the scholarship and the mechanics of how to apply, we hoped that hearing how other low-income students were earning their degrees without having to worry about tuition would inspire more students to apply—and more of the housing organizations we insure to promote the scholarship. We received hundreds of applications as a result and hope we get even more next year.
The goal of the second project, which won the IMCA “Best in Show” award for In-House Multimedia Communications, was to promote our annual risk management event. We really wanted to drive attendance, since the more of our insureds who know about the latest risk management techniques, the better they’re able to protect their residents, employees, and assets, while reducing claims. Since we all know what a hassle travel can be, we thought it would be fun to create a short, humorous video promoting the “virtual” part of the event. (This was pre-COVID-19.) We thought if we could make people smile, they’d pay attention to the rest of our message. And they did! It was a big hit, and attendance for our first virtual event exceeded our teams’ expectations.
IMCA: Had you considered other ways to reach your goal before you settled on this one?
AH: It was more of a mindset of “let’s try something new.” Our annual scholarship for low-income students is one of our favorite initiatives because of how much it impacts the recipients. That said, we’d never promoted these students or their achievements—our main focus had always been promoting the scholarship itself. Putting a face with a name and asking about the experience was so moving, and really drove home the impact the scholarship has on the people it touches. Again, storytelling is so important… actually showing the impact your company has on people, rather than telling. If you can make people feel something, they’ll remember your message.
As for the project that won Best in Show: We hadn’t ever really pushed the envelope with humor, because it’s a bit off brand for us, even though we like to think that we’re fun people and we have a lot of fun at work. But thinking about how painful travel can be created a spark of inspiration for us. What better way to show the benefits of a virtual event than to joke about long TSA lines, stuffed overhead bins, etc. We knew most everyone could relate to these pain points, and that it could be a great way to get our event to stand out. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a B2B environment; everyone likes to be entertained.
IMCA: Were there any hurdles you had to overcome while working on this project?
AH: This was the first time our marketing and communications team tackled video production from start to finish. We had a two-person team on the project, Staci Canny and Tyler Mannix, who learned how to direct actors, balance a camera, and use video editing software on the spot. Despite their drive and can-do attitudes, we went into this project having realistic expectations that things might not turn out as planned. Then, the exact opposite happened. Staci said, “Being new to video production forced us to be creative, resourceful, and to think on our feet, and that led us to delivering a creative video that our audience could relate to, proving that you don’t always need all the bells and whistles to make an impact.”
IMCA: How will you push the envelope in 2021?
AH: We’re definitely going to create more video content and will look to other IMCA Showcase Award winners for inspiration. Risk Placement Services’ brand campaign and Gallagher’s Zoos & Aquariums campaign are two examples of our peers’ work that really inspired our team. I often surf the web for marketing inspiration, but there’s so much out there… IMCA gives me a place to go where I know I’ll find the industry-specific inspiration I’m looking for.
IMCA: Do you have advice for other marketers/communicators who are looking for better ways to break through the clutter?
AH: Use humor! If your brand allows it, strive to entertain. Human brains are wired to respond to emotion, so don’t be afraid to break away from the dry, boring content that litters B2B communications. It works!
IMCA: Great advice. Thanks for that, Amy. Anything else you want to add?
AH: Yes! When the IMCA Showcase Award application process opens next year, make sure you apply. We almost didn’t because we didn’t think we could compete with bigger teams and budgets. But we decided to give it a go anyway, and we’re really glad we did.