As head of business development for Makovsky Integrated Communications, I attend networking conferences in many different customer niches.
However, no matter what the niche is, the same key idea gets reinforced: Regardless of the industries we serve, we have to stay current with the latest technologies they use.
Insurance industry innovations
Technology is not only disrupting customer niches (also known as “verticals”), but also niches within those verticals. I was reminded of this trend this past October, when I attended InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas, an annual showcase for the latest technology in the insurance industry.
PR professionals who represent insurers must now be versed in many new kinds of car insurance. For example, if you take public transportation to work and only drive your car on weekends, as I do, then paying monthly for car insurance is a waste of money.
Enter pay-per-mile insurance. Yes, a device is installed in your car to track your mileage, which gives some people privacy concerns. But thanks to this disruptive technology, I’m only paying about 4 cents a mile for my car insurance. Many major insurance companies have started pay-per-mile plans for their existing customers.
Being a good, safe driver can also save customers money. A device that plugs into your car’s diagnostic port (which is not for everyone, since it tracks your location) measures how smoothly you operate your vehicle. Using “telematics” — a field that combines telecommunications with vehicular technology — safety metrics such as how fast you drive and how hard you hit the brakes determine your car-insurance rates.
PR practitioners serving the insurance industry also need to understand how technology is being used to detect fraudulent workers’ compensation claims.
Imagine, for example, that a construction worker breaks both of his or her legs in a car accident. Their employer grants six months of workers’ compensation while he is unable to walk. But he heals quickly, and in four months he’s ready to return to work. Instead, he takes a ski trip during the final two months of his paid workers’ compensation. If he posts ski photos on social media, then he might get caught.
By law, businesses can’t hack a person’s private data, but there are now companies that insurers can hire to help protect them from paying out workers’ comp for fraudulent claims.
Advances in pro sports tech
In February, I attended SportTechie’s “State of the Industry” conference at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event reminded me that sports PR is no longer just about promoting games.
Among the innovations highlighted at the conference were technologies to prevent athlete injuries and to enhance stadium experiences for fans. Once again, it’s crucial for communicators to understand these advances.
Tracking devices can now monitor a baseball’s spin, or the point at which a pitcher releases the ball. AI and other advancements are spreading throughout the sports world as athletes, coaches, teams and agents all seek to gain every possible competitive edge.
That race extends even to the stadiums themselves. U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which recently hosted the Final Four men’s basketball tournament, is literally trying to “keep up with the Joneses” — in this case, with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Minnesota claims to have surpassed Jerry’s “Dallas Palace” in providing fans with the best stadium experience, but that title might be lost when Stan Kroenke’s new Inglewood stadium and entertainment district opens, the future home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers football teams.
Tips for staying current
Regardless of the industry, as communicators we have to stay current on new technology and developments. Of course, understanding myriad technological advances can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you stay ahead of the game:
- Audit technological advances related to your personal interests. When it comes to our own interests, aside from client work, it’s not laborious to identify how technology is changing them. Doing so will help you cultivate the mindset you need to stay current with the technology your clients are using, even if it’s unrelated to your own passions. To further massage your “tech mind,” learn about technological advances in the industries you’ve served during the last decade.
- Ask your clients’ questions. To master your clients’ subject matters and latest technological advances — so you can in turn present those messages to the world — ask clients the same questions reporters might ask them. It’s like practicing for a game. Also stay abreast of new technologies looming on the horizon. The right media story could differentiate your client from its competitors.
- When possible, try new technology yourself. Whether it’s a new online platform, a wearable technology or a tech-training course your client offers, experience it for yourself. Nothing will better prepare you to share those stories with the world.
Evan Makovsky is head of business development at Makovsky Integrated Communications. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org