Scouting for Media to Cover Online Annuities
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Scouting for Media to Cover Online Annuities

AnnuityScout.com was featured in many stories as experts in the industry, providing an excellent service that offers investors value and education in the process.

Paul Holmes

 

Public relations services were needed to translate what AnnuityScout.com already had established as a reputable firm to the online marketplace.  Hill and Knowlton’s messaging proved successful for AnnuityScout.com, as the majority of media coverage was overwhelmingly positive on the “new breed” of annuities.  In particular, AnnuityScout.com was featured in many stories as experts in the industry, providing an excellent service that offers investors value and education in the process.

AnnuityScout.com has had a presence in the annuity marketplace since 1987, known as Independent Advantage Financial (IAF).  The new name, AnnuityScout.com was founded to coincide with the company’s pursuit of an online distribution channel.  Going online was the next logical step for AnnuityScout, allowing the company to pull together everything its management team has learned to give their customers the best value and buying experience.  

OPPORTUNITIES/CHALLENGES

One of the largest obstacles to the success of gaining awareness and media recognition was the fact that annuities have a reputation as being “old, stale, boring, or misunderstood.”  However, this stereotype served to fuel the need for research and made us strive to showcase AnnuityScout.com as not only offering an innovative service to investors, but providing a logical alternative in an unstable investment market.   

RESEARCH

Hill and  Knowlton conducted extensive research, such as media soft-soundings, competitive coverage and media audits, to formulate AnnuityScout.com’s positioning within the annuity industry.

Our research revealed: 

  • AnnuityScout is the only shopping service for no-load annuities
  • AnnuityScout could capture a position as the nation’s leading marketplace for annuities
  • Its shopping service allows for a neutral, non-competitive position in the annuity market place
  • AnnuityScout could take advantage of an analogy between mutual funds and annuities, with the difference being a lag of 15 years.  As annuities move to no-load, they are poised to take-off, just as mutual funds did during the last two decades.  
  • With the right outreach, AnnuityScout could provide insurance companies with the opportunity to reach investors and not offend their existing agents, while creating more volume in under-served markets. 

PLANNING

A year-long communications/media plan was put in place, with quarterly foci that would build awareness and understanding among desired segments and audiences.  The plan emphasized the need to create Web traffic and generate name recognition as well as trust and security in the company and its offerings.

Objectives:

  • Drive potential investor traffic to AnnuityScout’s newly constructed Web site
  • Attract insurance companies as strategic partners
  • Attract funding to fuel aggressive company growth

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Our overarching strategy was to showcase AnnuityScout.com as a tool for financial planning and wealth building to attract media coverage.  Specifically we sought to: 

Educate the public about annuities, either directly or through the media  

Capitalize on the industry’s evolved state and how today’s product can fit the needs of a changing marketplace to enhance AnnuityScout.com’s online presence  

Build a solid media kit, highlighting AnnuityScout.com’s longevity in the annuity industry and breadth of knowledge and resources.  Included in the kit is the site map and print interviews to help guide reporters about the products/topics that company executives can address

Provide spokespeople for radio, TV, online and print media 

Penetrate trade publications to attract the appropriate industry players with by-line articles, story ideas, etc.

Obtain coverage in personal finance sections of newspapers and magazines to attract individual buyers

EXECUTION

The need to target trade media nationwide took priority in the year-long plan, given the ability of these outlets to reach strategic partners and product suppliers.  Therefore, our plan included:  

  • Qualifying and identifying the appropriate editorial staff and media outlets to help ensure coverage 
  • Creation of appropriate nationwide media lists, including print, online, and broadcast, focusing on, in this order: insurance trades; business and financial trades; seniors and matures; technology trade publications and enthusiast publications; personal finance  
  • Extending our reach to daily newspapers and wire services including personal finance reporters and insurance and special investment reporters.  

RESULTS

To date, AnnuityScout.com has been featured in the following sampling of outlets:

Magazines:

  • Business Week
  • Industry Standard
  • Online Investor
  • Bloomberg Personal Finance
  • Business 2.0

Investment trades:

  • National Underwriter 
  • Best’s Insurance News
  • Annuity Market News 
  • Kiplinger’s Retirement Report
  • Credit Union Executive
  • Wall Street and Technology

Newswires and Online media:

  • Reuters
  • Dow Jones Newswires
  • CBS MarketWatch
  • Financial NetNews

Daily newspapers:

  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Investors Business Daily
  • St. Petersburg Times 
  • Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel 
  • Arizona Republic
  • Rocky Mountain News 
  • Chicago Tribune 

Broadcast radio and television:

  • CNN Headline News 
  • Bloomberg MoneyWise
  • Bay News 9 - Money Time (Tampa, FL)
  • Business for Breakfast (Denver, CO)

Throughout the intensive five-month start-up period, the media exposure was significant and acknowledged by the client as a critical contribution both to Web site hits and sales.

During the outreach campaign, AnnuityScout.com monitored and measured performance in relation to web hits and sales.  As indicated below, the campaign made a substantial impact on AnnuityScout.com’s operations.

Web hits per month:

 

Number of 

User Sessions

Number of 

Page Views

APRIL

19,530

37,547

MAY

47,447

121,473

JUNE

63,858

230,420

JULY

68,932

558,048

AUGUST

91,260

558,048

Sales of annuities per month:

 

 Sales 

APRIL

 $  3,293,632.00 

MAY

 $  3,505,504.00 

JUNE

 $  4,927,184.00 

JULY

 $10,384,493.00 

AUGUST

 $10,335,565.00 

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