At the recent 2012 PIMA Mid-Year Meeting in Santa Fe, the Best of PIMA 2012 Award went to the AMA Insurance Agency for their “Take A Trip With Timmy” campaign. A brilliantly conceived strategy, albeit somewhat by accident, TATWT actually saw its genesis one year earlier at the 2011 PIMA Mid-Year Meeting. In fact, Denise Friday, immediate past President of PIMA and VP of Sales & Marketing with the AMA Insurance Agency, put it this way:

One of the most important points, I think, is that the idea of the Take a Trip with Timmy contest was the direct result of Brian attending the 2011 presentation by Aon’s David Griffiths.  David’s Best of PIMA 2010 Award presentation, titled “NSO – Outstanding Nurse Search”, provided the creative spark that helped Brian classically connect the dots. Brian had met the Timmy Global Health principals some months earlier, knew that medical students and residents were highly-altruistic and heavily invested in international charity work, but hadn’t landed yet on the perfect idea for melding the two.  Griffiths’ presentation was truly the genesis for the ultimate construct of the Take a Trip with Timmy social media contest, and speaks volumes about the benefits of PIMA membership, and the opportunity to engage with industry thought leaders.  Who knows?  Without that PIMA meeting, the Take a Trip with Timmy contest idea may not have unfolded in exactly the same way … but it did, and here we are!  PIMA’s educational and knowledge-sharing opportunities are many and immensely valuable.

So I thought it might be helpful to do a podcast on the story in an effort to facilitate more detailed knowledge sharing across the industry. It’s not short at about 26 minutes. But it might be perfect for listening on the commute or sharing with your team.

Shameless plug: These concepts will be included in the Social Tech Boot Camp for Insurance Executives as a Case Study in how to leverage multiple Social Tech concepts across a single campaign – strategically and tactically.

Episode 39 – 2012 Best of PIMA Award: TATWT

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WebWisedom Transcript courtesy of

Mike: Hi this is Mike Wise with WebWisedom. This is Podcast 39: A case study in how to leverage social tech in affinity insurance marketing. Just a quick disclaimer, I’m just an interested party in this broadcast. I have no business connection to my guest other than being a fan of theirs and a fellow member of an industry association. I also have no connection to the award itself, the judging panel, or anything else related to the award.

So, looking back at the extremely well received Professional Insurance Marketing Association Mid-Year Meeting 2012 [pictures] [video] in Santa Fe that wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, several items stand out in my mind. The previous two podcasts speak to a couple of those other high points. This podcast speaks to an important third item.

The PIMA Marketing Methods Competition is an annual event whose purpose is to recognize and educate. The awards are given in several categories, a couple of which are near and dear to my heart due to their connection to social tech and business. An overall winner is also selected from among the Gold Award winners. This Best of PIMA Award is selected by the judging panel on the basis of a number of factors. The Best of PIMA 2012 Award went to the AMA Insurance Agency and that is the subject of this podcast.

I reached out to Denise Friday the immediate past President of PIMA. You can follow Denise on Twitter @19friday and I asked if she would like to help organize a podcast that might help other PIMA members better understand some of the learnings from their campaign both from an executive viewpoint and a technical implementation standpoint.

So, joining us on the podcast today is Chris Burke, President of the AMA Insurance Agency and Brian Farmer, National Account Executive and the manager of a sponsored plan around group disability insurance coverage for residents and medical and other students.

Gentleman, welcome to the podcast.

Chris: Well, good morning.

Brian: Thanks, Mike.

Mike: So, Chris let’s start with you. Could you tell us a little bit about the AMA Insurance Agency and your role.

Chris: Sure, yeah. AMA Insurance Agency is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Medical Association. As you can imagine our marketing fairway is America’s physicians and we market to all physicians, members and non-members alike. Our charter is to do good jobs for all of America’s physicians and as president, as you can imagine, my role is to help guide strategy and product and portfolio and service to make sure we’re doing as quality job as possible for America’s doctors.

Mike: Okay. Great. And Brian, what’s your role and can you tell us about the campaign  at a high level?

Brian: Sure, I’m tasked with managing the AMA sponsored Med Plus Advantage program. It’s one of the largest providers of group disability income coverage for medical students in the United States. Program was basically the result of a resolution at the AMA by medical students and residents for a lack of quality product back in the late 1980′s and now it has become the leading program in the United States for medical professionals along their education career track. So, I’m tasked with managing that program. This initiative came to light that met basically a solution we were looking for some strategic initiatives surrounding social tech and other initiatives that we had identified in this marketplace.

Mike: Brian, talk about the campaign. What’s the name of the campaign? What are some of the high points of it? Just sort of set the frame work and then we’ll bounce back to Chris and talk about what he learned from executive standpoint from this.

Brian: Sure. One of the challenges that we have in this medical student resident segment is being able to basically communicate to them through all the noise and the difficulty of training to become a physician and maintaining our relevancy with the medical students and the residents. So, we provide group disability income coverage to them and one of the challenges we have is communicating to them about what their coverages are, creating brand awareness to let them know that we’re there and that we’re a solutions oriented organization looking out for their best interest as it pertains to insurance products leveraging the buying power of them collectively.

Brian Farmer at the PIMA Social Media Lab

And so it’s very difficult. They’re extremely busy, extremely focused and in the limited amount of free time that they have they want to spend it with family and friends and decompressing.

So one of the great challenges that we have, and everyone trying to communicate with these individuals have, including the medical schools and the hospitals, is just reaching out to them and being relevant. So, we had this as a challenge in one of our strategic initiatives was to better present our brand and the awareness that these students have about our brand.

One of the things that we knew that we needed to be doing was being involved in leveraging social tech to do that because they are extremely active with social media through their mobile devices their iPads and it’s something that they’re actively involved with. So we also knew that before we dipped our toe in the water of social tech we better be relevant. When we do speak it better be something that resonates with them.

And we have some intelligence based on our experiences and our cycles of learning. One of the things that we knew was that most every medical student in the United States travels internationally as part of their training, or as just as matter of contributing to the global health issues and some of the products that we provide help give them solutions for travel insurance.

What started to materialize is the coming together of all of these issues. We wanted to be involved with social tech. We want to better create better brand awareness. We know they’re involved in traveling internationally and so the concept of a contest that awarded free travel and to participate in a global health brigade seemed to meet all of those initiatives all at one time and it was very intuitive initially that this could be a solution for that problem and that challenge.

The way we put it together, and we’ll discuss this a little bit later in the podcast, it turned out to be very successful. So, that’s the gist of why we did what we did and the name of the initiative was Take a Trip With Timmy.  It was a contest, an essay contest, where ten finalist were selected to create a YouTube video that they would share within their social networks to gain votes, and then winners were selected to actually participate on a global health service trip. We’ll get to the details a little bit farther along in the podcast.

Mike: Okay. Great. Perfect. So, it’s Take a Trip With Timmy. It was all around disability income insurance for medical students and residents and I understand from Denise that this was an institutional type of program. In other words, you sell the insurance package to the educational institution and they include it as part of their tuition because institutions recognize the investment in education across a long span of time for medical students and if they get hurt it’s all for not. Serving overseas and so forth is inherently risky and so this was a multi-faceted program and so forth.

So, Chris, let’s bounce back over to you. Tell us your take on the story. What were some of the obstacles that you had to overcome and talk to us about this Take a Trip with Timmy.

Chris: Timmy comes from Timmy Global Health. It’s a medical brigade organization that is really all about creating greater access to quality global healthcare. Here’s the magic of this. When we conducted this social marketing experiment here it was really about engaging these medical students and residents and young physicians in such as way that it hit home with two big things. One of them was certainly to engage their calling, which is all about healthcare, and as Brian mentioned earlier, their sensitivity to global healthcare access is really, really poignant.

The second one is this career enhancement part where truly these sorts of medical brigade experiences overseas in impoverished countries are really great experiences for them. And in terms of enhancing their careers and enhancing what they know how to do and how to do it in difficult settings, that can be used here in the United States as well.

Interestingly enough the program the sponsored this, which is our Med Plus Advantage program, our MPA program, which is the disability income program for medical schools and residents, really was very secondary as a pull through brand, including AMA Insurance. to this whole exercise, The meat of this was that we were connecting with these medical students and residents in a very emotional level and that’s what took this thing off.

The brands that we that we had hoped to positioning were well-positioned but it wasn’t about selling insurance and it wasn’t about buying more insurance from AMA Insurance, but it was definitely about positioning our brand and positioning our product. And we have a pretty good share of the medical students out there but we don’t have all of them. From a strategy perspective, what we’d like to do is build some brand awareness of AMA Insurance when they’re young like this so as they get out of medical training, and they enter residency, they finalize the balance of their medical education, now they’re young physicians and they know about AMA Insurance.

So, the goal here is very much a segmentation strategy to build brand awareness. But we were so pleased with the engagement level on social media that we really had an epiphany to finally help us understand how to execute these well. We got a little lucky out of the gate. But at the end of the day, I think we hit on how to hit these things exactly the way they need to be hit.

You mentioned obstacles early on. Well, I’ll tell you the biggest obstacle is no one has ever done this before here at the AMA, to my knowledge. I don’t think anybody has sponsored any contests like this to sponsor someone to go on a medical brigade that we would pay for with our partnership affiliation with Timmy Global Health for example. I don’t think anybody has ever done it before.

So in terms of obstacles we had to run this concept all the way up and down organizational levels at the American Medical Association, we had to run them through the legal grisk mills here at the AMA as well as our own insurance agency compliance area. We had to make sure that we had all of our bases covered with subject matter expert, including people who run contests, so that we have this exactly wired right because we didn’t want to have a faux paus occur with the technicalities of how to run these things.

We’ve just had some fabulous partners. We’ve moved at a decent pace, but I’m going to say it took us probably the better part of the year to plan and execute this.

Mike: Were there any issues in terms of maybe legal and compliance maybe budget, maybe human resources, maybe IT infrastructure, or anything like that that you want to touch on and share that people might find interesting?

Chris: I think all of the above. It’s quite a process that you really have to map all this out and I will tell you that the subject matter expertise necessary to orchestrate a contest… There are more technicalities there than you can imagine but at the same time you’ve got brand synergies that we have to navigate with the AMA parent brand thing. We’ve got websites that support this. We’ve got rules and disclaimers and you name it, it’s not without its complexity.

I think as we’ve demonstrated with this program, I think if you get all of your bases covered right and you’re partnering with quality people, these things can execute in a really powerful way. Once they get going, the magic here is that the social aspect of this takes over. Once we got them in the field and had it out to the students and residents to submit their essays and we narrowed it down to the videos, it really all of the sudden gets on almost autopilot where you’ve got to then just keep nudging it to stay within the guardrails to the end. But the excitement levels are just fabulous.

Brian, I’m trying to think of how essays did we have submitted?

Brian: We had over 200 essays submitted. To Chris’s point, getting into the tactical nature of the contests, I’d like to be able say that we knew what we’re doing from the very beginning and we were sure we were going to hit a home run. That wasn’t it at all. Like Chris said, this was a social media sort of experiment but it made sense strategically with the awareness and using social tact to reach out.

One of the things that was sort of magical that happened was that, as Chris mentioned, it wasn’t about moving a product, it was about our brand awareness. But we were focused on creating a meaningful connection and we knew that global health was meaningful for these students. So when we started to get down into the tactical nature of the contests, we know that these individuals are highly motivated and there are some very complex emotional motivations behind wanting to become a physician, and then you add into it wanting to serve underserved communities, you’ve got some powerful things at play.

Tactically designing the contest, we first had an essay, 500-word essay about how their goals aligned with the mission of providing quality healthcare to underserved communities. When these very talented individuals started putting their pens to paper, the judges here at the AMA Insurance Agency really connected with why is it we do what we do. We serve physicians. And for them to share what motivates them, why they want to become a physician is incredibly powerful. Reading one of these essays, one of the winning essays, you can’t miss it, the passion, the desire, the emotion is incredible.

And then the second segment of the competition was really where we wanted to get some legs as far social media is concerned and leveraging the networks that are available to allow these folks to tell their story in a video format to be able to share that video to get likes publicly viewed. That was the area that just took off. There were over 30,000 views of the videos. The contest winners have told us that their grade school teachers would come of the woodwork and people in their hallways at the hospitals would say, “Hey, I saw your video. I voted for you…” They were just overwhelmed by the response they had personally to the videos.

Tactically, we were able to meet the goal of traction within their social media networks basically just stepped out of the way and let that propel itself. It was self-propelled from that point and we were very pleased. It was sort of a at the last minute we decided these essays are so wonderful, the videos are so incredible, we can’t just silently announce a winner and go off into cyberspace.

So what we decide to do was announce the winners live via Skype. That was a really incredible experience to see their emotions when it was announced live. That was really special and I think it gave all of us an idea of what this really meant to them and the connection that we made.

Mike: It is so incredible, on a number of levels. But at the same time, I think it’s important for other insurance distributions companies with different products and different constituents and different markets and so forth to understand just because they don’t happen to be selling insurance to doctors doesn’t mean that the same concepts that you guys learned and used during this campaign can’t be applied to other types of insurance and marketing efforts.

A couple of quick questions, Brian, who were the judges that you used?

Brian: We used individuals within the AMA Insurance Agency within Timmy Global Health, within a medical student-run podcast called Radio Rounds, so within their peers. But one of things that you touched on there in your last statement is a pretty important for other insurance carriers and types, “Hey, I don’t deal with medical students or what am I going to get from this…”

But I think from the standpoint of becoming relevant and creating a connection or a dialog, you have to figure out what interests lie in your target market. I kind of relay this to the old-fashioned sales where you have an expense account and you’re going to take your client out for dinner or to play golf. And really you start to communicate on a social level. You want to get to know them, what their interests are, and you’re not pushing a product right out in front. You want to know what motivates this person, what their interests are, get to know them, and that’s kind of what the social media does. It allows us to have a dialog with something that’s meaningful for them. I think if you search for meaningful topics that are related to what you do, that’s really the challenge.

Chris: Well, I think it speaks to also, Mike, segmentation. I think for us to say okay what interest physicians? That’s just too broad. And we were very laser focused on the young physicians, we were focused on physicians in training. We could connect with them on a emotional level about what top few things are that we can engage a social discussion over and we just happen to pick the right one. There are some others out there in terms of dealing with debt and balancing pressures of family and school, especially with physicians that are in training, and all of their buddies are already driving nice cars and they’re not yet. There’s an awful lot of that.

But that emotional calling toward medicine and global health these days, it just happened to be a home run for us. So I would encourage others that want to engage in this sort of strategy I would definitely pivot this around the segmentation strategy. And I’d get under the hood of whatever the segment which you’re after and try to find the top few things that you can conduct and connect a social conversation over.

Mike: What else, Chris, did you learn from this project about that other agency CEOs might be interested in hearing about?

Chris: We touched on it a few minutes ago when we engage in a conversation with these folks, we get an awful lot of insight into how to improve our marketing communications with these students. Those videos were just fabulous and we absolute studied them and took themes down in terms of how we can better communicate with these folks.

I’ll tell you the other thing with regard to those videos is we were absolutely shocked at the production value of these videos that they did, and I assure you, and it’s not going to shock you, Mike, you know how to do this stuff, but they’re using their iPhones, they’re using iPads and their videos were about as quality produced videos we used to be able to do 20 years ago and we were shooting commercials.

The technology that these kids are use to using again gives us more insight in terms of how to market to them and that had indeed shaped how some of our marketing was conducted with the medical students and the residents in particular when we launched new products last spring. We wove technology, we wove much more e-communication into our campaigns going forward in the spring and it was largely as a result of really some confirmed learning about how this experiment with the social marketing campaign that us how to better communicate with this folks.

Mike: What were the guidelines for the videos? Brian, did you publish guidelines? It’s got to be so much in length, it’s got to do this and that. Were there any guidelines?

TATWT Promotion Concepts

Brian: What we tried to do is we tried to create anticipation within the groups as they were told that this contest was coming and that the initial prompt or the essay question was released on Twitter first. So we had a whole set of registrants who had registered to get information about the contest and then we let them know that the question was going to be released via Twitter. That was an important part of the contest and we let them know that all the most important announcements were going to be made via Twitter. We also had some contests run within the contest that went very well. For instance, the first 50 submitted essay would all receive a Take a Trip with Timmy T-shirt and of course our following on Twitter just started clicking off as soon as we released that announcement. That was successful.

One of the things, we’d also gotten some significant suggestions from others who had done these contests. The windows need to be shorter than what you would think. You don’t want to give too much time to submit and essay because then you sort of lose the excitement and everyone waits to the last minute anyway. So the periods for actually submitting the essays and the videos are rather short.

When Chris mentioned earlier about the quality of the videos… What was really fascinating is we gave them maybe a little over a week or so to do that. Felt like if these are motivated individuals and they’ll put it together with their technology and they did.

Chris: What was the length? It was like 10 minutes?

Brian: Yeah. We gave them in like 5 to 7 minutes tell a true story about yourself. We didn’t want to give them too much guidance because, like I said, you kind of want to back out of the way and let the message take over and let them create. That’s kind of what happened. They were very creative and the videos are very different from one to the next. We had to meet certain guidelines for compliance. So that was a real juggling act to allow this creative innovation to take place on one end, but to be protected and compliant and within the rules on the other hand.

Mike: I understand from an ROI standpoint that you had more RFPs in-house in the first quarter of 2012 than in all of 2011. Chris, you know how much this program cost from an overall energy, time, and money standpoint and you know what’s happened so far in 2012. Can you just comment real quick on ROI for other agency CEOs that might be thinking about this?

Chris: I’m trying to think. Brian, what’s our RFP count now in the first quarter? And these are quotes for new schools.

Brian: In the first half of this year we’ve already submitted about 24 written proposals.

Chris: And without conveying too much in terms of what each of those is worth, I’m going to say if we had half of them come through, we would more than pay for this whole social media campaign. To my knowledge I think two of them have already come through. Maybe more than that.

Brian: Oh, yeah. They would more than take care of the campaign.


Chris: From an agency CEO perspective, the at-bats are fabulous. We’ve yet to pull of these though completion but the factor of the matter is we didn’t plan to even have that fast an ROI. We though it might take a couple of seasons actually of this and we were committed to a couple of seasons. If this first one went decently, we were going to do another one next year and this one went well beyond our expectations.

Brian said we got a couple of hundred essays submitted. I just wondered if we would have gotten maybe 50. So we were much heavier in terms of our exposure and this campaign was spread around through the medical school community through the residency program communities that actually started getting calls from some of the deans from these school and their program coordinators wanting to know more about it. And they began to shove this via their list-serves to their organizations, their student communities.

It did the trick. The ROI, I think, is going to be more than what we expected. But the brand recognition we’re building with these students as an institution that can help them with their insurance needs as they get out and become practicing physicians is really, really the gold medal that we were pleased to win.

Brian: Yeah, I think back to the whole strategic purpose of the contest that Chris mentioned to begin with was for brand awareness. To create a better connection, we didn’t attach it to a product. We didn’t say we need to move so many widgets for the return. Our strategic interactive was to create a dialog, a better connection and have our brand associated with that. The rest has been sort of gravy, because now we have this equity that we have created with this segment that now we can begin to leverage.

We’ve created something very valuable in this dialog that we have. The winners are blogging from the clinics. Those are up on our site. We have Twitter conversations going on about what it is these individuals gained from this contest and multiple, multiple conversations going on out there now.

Some of the schools have posted internally the winning video of their student and has sent that out to their student body who are getting recognized. It will be real interesting in the coming year or two when we’re attending conferences, the types of conversations that are taking place are new and ones that we’ve never had before.

At the most recent conference that we had, our annual meeting here in Chicago, the students who were collected around our exhibit booth and talking about this contest, and one of the winners was there, and it was very interesting for us to be just present. We just happen to be there now and we’re present where we weren’t before in things that are meaningful for them.

Chris: Well, of course when you standing in front of a huge booth Med Plus Advantage sponsored by the American Medical Association, that’s not a bad deal either.

Best of PIMA 2012 Team

Mike: This is just phenomenal. Great work to you and your teams, Chris, Brian. Please pass along my appreciation to Denise, too. And I’m sure so many other people. I heard you, Chris, reference putting together a team and it sounds like this was the result of many, many people in your business and with the AMA and probably around the industry. So, it’s great that you guys won the Best of PIMA 2012 Marketing Methods Competition Award and it sounds like it was well deserved. Thanks so much for taking the time to share you insights with the PIMA audience.

Chris: You are welcome and we appreciate the opportunity.

Brian: Yes, thank you very much, Mike.

Mike: Great. Again, it’s been Mike Wise, President of WebWisedom and Podcast 39: Take a trip with Timmy with the Best of PIMA 2012 with the AMA Insurance Agency. And thanks again to Denise Friday, Chris Burke and Brian Farmer. Links and more information can be found at WebWisedom.com