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Another Blog Is Born

A guest blog from Tom Johansmeyer

When I found the new Willis blog,, on LinkedIn last week, I rushed over to take a look. Maybe it's because I'm a social media nerd ... or it's the fact that I can't shake my interest in how insurance and reinsurance brokers are marketing themselves. Either way, I clicked over immediately to see what was going on. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it.

In all honesty, I noticed the flaws immediately, but I'll get to that in a bit. I'd rather focus on the positive for now. I was excited to see another company in our industry take the blogging plunge. There are far too few corporate blogger in the re/insurance space, though more than when I got started (thankfully). Most tend to be from smaller firms, and while I'm thrilled to see them engaged (I'm now one of the little guys, in fact), there's a clear need for the big guys to launch blogs and use them consistently. With the launch of Willis', I saw the industry take a step in the right direction.

Back in February, I wrote on my blog that I figured Willis would be next (in some form), especially given the property-catastrophe price index it announced. I guess I was right, but I never expected the company's foray into social media to come in the form of a single-issue blog. Contingent commissions may be a hot issue right now, but it has a limited life. So, Willis is sacrificing a certain amount of longevity. I'd have rather seen the company launch a Willis blog and build in contingent commissions as a category or tag and highlight it on the home page. Coming up with regular, insightful content on a single issue is going to turn into a pain fast, making the blog more labor than investment.

There's a hidden problem, too. The greatest value I've seen in running a corporate blog for a major firm is the diversity of content available. The variety makes it easier to link back to previous stories as a way to cut through all the other stuff - it adds value to the experience. A single-issue blog leaves little opportunity for linking back, because all the posts deal with the same topic. This means that traffic will be lower (in pageviews, if not unique visitors), translating to less brand visibility and reinforcement per visitor.

It's easy to be critical, and by delving into the details, I risk obscuring the most important lesson from Clients Before Commissions - and it's a positive one. Someone at Willis decided that the way to push its message on contingent commissions was through a corporate blog. This is a giant leap forward for our industry. Willis could have used a press release, pitch letters and interviews or a white paper. Instead, it went with social media. Two years ago, when I was taking my first steps into reinsurance blogging, it's unlikely that anyone would have come up with the idea of using a blog to tackle this issue, let alone actually get it off the ground. Last week, we saw it in action.

I hope that the next step for Willis is to grow its social media footprint, as I hope the rest of the re/insurance industry will do. Even companies in direct competition should encourage the overall evolution of blogging, LinkedIn communication and even voracious tweeting. The maturity of social media will benefit all of us, and it's the content, ultimately, that will decide the winners - not merely the boldness to bet on the untested.

Tom Johansmeyer blogs about social media and the (re)insurance industry at Before that, he was a key player in launching one of the first corporate blogs in the industry. Tom also blogs about travel for Gadling [] and cigars and the art market for Luxist []. He's located in New York, as you can probably tell from his writing style.

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