Catch an IMCA Rising Star

At the 2019 annual conference, IMCA announced the winners of our inaugural Rising Star Award. This new award celebrates industry professionals, 33 years of age or younger, who are already standing out as leaders at their companies. They’ve established a professional track record and demonstrated a commitment to the insurance industry. While many IMCA members are seasoned insurance professionals, award recipients must have entered the insurance industry within the last five years.

If you haven’t met these three impressive professionals, here’s your chance.

A career-making game

Hailey Willett’s insurance career started in an unusual way: over a game of euchre in college with students who were majoring in risk management and insurance. Intrigued by their conversation, Hailey changed her major to risk management with a minor in journalism and mass communications. Two internships later, in 2016, she joined Frankenmuth Insurance’s marketing department full time. Today, Hailey manages a number of communications channels for the Michigan-based carrier including its social media and blog, as well as agent and employee communications. But where Hailey has really made her mark is managing the company’s online reputation, a challenge that many insurance companies grapple with.

“Hailey gets it,” says Maureen Lafrinere, a marketing manager at Frankenmuth, who nominated Hailey for the award. “She has spot-on judgment regarding our company’s image in the marketplace.”

Understanding the importance of online reviews and presence to Frankenmuth’s branding efforts and its independent agents’ ability to present the company’s products and services to potential customers, Hailey worked with her team to develop a strategy for maintaining a strong, positive brand image and reputation. She focused on building a series of responses to address consumer questions, concerns, and comments on its social media channels and online review platforms. Working with internal partners, she responded quickly and fairly to online reviews or comments.

This year, Hailey’s goal was for Frankenmuth to reach or maintain 3/5 Google stars with 50% positive reviews or better. As of December 2019, her efforts have helped the company meet both goals with 3/5 Google stars. In addition, 54% of Frankenmuth’s online reviews expressed positive sentiment.

Introducing marketing

In contrast, IMCA Rising Star Megan Bell had several years of marketing experience under her belt when she joined Rhode Island-based Falvey Insurance in 2017. New to the insurance industry, as well as to Falvey, Megan’s challenge was to build a marketing department for the specialty line carrier and its three subsidiaries.

Megan started by implementing Falvey’s first-ever marketing plan. Although an insurance novice, she was able to identify ways to better support the company’s underwriters. To drive new leads, she developed a Google ads campaign. In one instance, she targeted the ads against a long-time competitor in the vessel pollution market.

Megan also implemented two broker partner programs, supported by co-branded sell sheets, landing pages, presentations, and videos. Together these programs generated more than $17 million in premium for the company’s cargo division.

Megan is particularly proud of the work she’s done with Falvey’s continuing education (CE) program. Prior to Megan’s arrival, the company used print and snail mail to promote these educational opportunities and to communicate with participants. Megan automated the registration process by bringing everything online and cut the cost-per-participant by almost 50%. More important, the experience is co-branded with an e-invitation, designated landing page, and email communications. A participant survey has given instructors valuable feedback they were previously missing. According to Megan, the CE program enhancements served as a great example of underwriting and marketing working together and demonstrated to long-term employees that change could be positive.

“Megan is a unique marketer because she has both right- and left-brain skills,” says Michael Falvey, the company’s president and CEO, who nominated her for the award. “She has been unequivocally successfully with Falvey’s marketing efforts.”

For marketers who are new to insurance like she was, Megan advises they attend as many meetings as possible to get to know the company’s key people, understand what’s important to them, and start to speak the industry language. She also points to industry events and, of course, IMCA as great learning opportunities.

Pushing beyond expectations
A commitment to providing best-in-class service and quality communications has distinguished Ashley Heline at Texas-based Argo Group. During the three-plus years this Rising Star has been with the specialty line insurer, she has steadily moved up the communications and marketing ranks, taking on greater responsibility as she ascends.

Ashley’s decision to stretch herself beyond the traditional media relations role is what led Argo’s David Snowden, the insurer’s senior vice president for communications, to nominate her for the award.

“Ashley has grown her skill set as a passionate and effective marketer and communicator as well as embraced new challenges and opportunities to help Argo excel as a leading specialty insurer,” he says. “She has taken on accumulative responsibilities and new challenges with ease.”

Progressing from her initial position as communications coordinator to public relations specialist, Ashley oversaw the company’s U.S. and international media relations efforts. In her new role, she developed and executed media relations strategies for key lines of business and subject matter experts. By raising the level of proactive media activities, Ashley increased coverage, particularly with top-tier media outlets.

Last year, Ashley helped expand Argo’s thought leadership program. Her media relations effort resulted in 800+ earned media clips in 2018. As a complement to her media relations strategy, she executed a proactive strategy to pitch and submit company leadership for speaking engagements at top insurance industry events such as RIMS, PLUS, Joint Industry Forum, InsureTech Connect, and FT Live events.

Another accomplishment is Ascend With Argo, a newly developed program created to foster lasting relationships with external clients by providing educational and networking opportunities for early career insurance professionals so they can learn more about the industry. Today, Ashley focuses on this program full-time and plays a key role in developing, designing, planning, executing, and measuring the success of the learning and development opportunities.

If you know of or work with a rising star, be on the lookout for IMCA’s award submission forms, which will be available beginning in the spring.