#PRAwards highlight: How NTUC Income elevated its market positioning through PR

NTUC Income (Income) is no stranger when it comes to garnering good PR. In 2018, it was named the "Most Loved Singaporean Brands" in a study done by social media listening tool Socialbakers. Now, with its agency WE Communications, Income took home the bronze award for "Best PR Campaign: Banking/Financial Services" at Marketing's PR Awards 2020. 

Income used PR to stand out from the increasingly competitive and digitised industry, and enhance its visibility in the market. It did so by launching a multi-pronged PR strategy targeting at both the public and its staff. Income's strategy emphasises the story of its digital transformation journey, and positions itself as a market leader. Find out how Income managed to beat the competition at PR Awards 2020 and attain that bronze award here:

Challenge

Income was established as a social enterprise in 1970 to provide affordable essential insurance to protect workers in Singapore. Since then, the brand has grown to become a leading composite insurer offering life, health and general insurance products and services to over two million people.

However, as the business environment became increasingly competitive with digital disruption coming from all directions, and new players entering the insurance market with competitive insurance products, Income knew it had to reposition itself as an innovative, digital-first market leader.

To stand out from the competition, Income knew it had to sharpen its capabilities and build its reputation to establish itself as the insurer of choice in today’s digital economy. It needed to grow its visibility and reputation as an industry innovator and thought-leader to support its business goals.

Strategy

With this challenge in mind, the brand worked with its PR agency WE Communications to conceptualise its campaign strategy to target new customers, existing customers, employees, and stakeholders/partners. They hoped to use PR to:

  • Enhance Income’s visibility as an industry thought-leader and innovative digital insurer, and to establish and grow the company’s reputation;
  • Attract like-minded partners in the digital ecosystem to augment Income’s digital capabilities and innovative insurance offerings;
  • Encourage access to insurance amongst the digital natives and the underserved segments;
  • Heighten awareness about digital transformation at Income amongst employees and to strengthen a culture of innovation in the organisation.

Income knew it had to build its reputation both externally and internally. The latter was critical as employees and internal stakeholders can be effective advocates for Income’s reputation publicly. Knowing this, the PR strategy was multi-pronged:

1. The brand looked to purposefully build a calendar of announcements to strategically time and anchor specific key messages of the reputation that Income aimed to build. This allowed the brand to build momentum on the digitisation narrative, and leverage differentiated strategic narratives to establish rapport with the newsroom and reporters so as to build further, bigger related stories.

2. Income also focused on announcements regarding meeting customers’ needs, plugging the protection gap, and resolving pain points of modern lifestyles vis-a-vis insurance. This was implemented against the backdrop that media today is resource-tight and could do with sharp story pitches that showcase relevance and value of the information to audiences.

Being mindful of consistent messaging, the brand aligned all of its public and internal communications to its corporate message of being an innovative digital insurer and market thought-leader.

3. The brand also leveraged on its leadership change at Income to renew its press rapport and to seed stories in line with its agenda. Income proactively offered media access to its new CEO to discuss a range of topics. This is to give weight to its digital transformation journey and showcase its progressive digitalisation and innovation roadmap. The media engagement was strategic and purposeful, and built on the insight that media would appreciate such C-suite access.

4. Income also looked to create excitement for digital transformation and innovation initiatives to build desired reputation amongst employees and cultivate staff advocates. It gave members of its staff “first dibs” on innovations through staff profiling and insights, and played up their involvement at related events and projects on Income’s intranet news portal, OrangeBeats. This was done to maintain a steady buzz of digitisation and a strong perception of a keen progress on and culture of innovation at Income.

5. Last but not least, it cultivated alternative amplifiers beyond mainstream print, online and broadcast platforms to include outreach to niche platforms, and collaborated with influencers to effectively bring across key messages, achieve strong impact, and reach the right target audience.

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Execution

Income’s digital transformation journey was told through a series of media and stakeholder engagements, using consistent messaging across different internal and external channels. PR tactics that were used include:

1. Strategically curated and timed media releases and exclusive interviews:

The media releases were strategically curated and timed to build on one another to augment Income’s digitisation and innovation narrative in the public eye. Income scheduled the announcement of its travel-inspired lifestyle insurance Pinfare in March 2019, following the media buzz on its rainsurance Droplet in October 2018.

The aim is to position Income as a market innovator and leader with another ground-breaking proof point. This was followed by the announcement of Income’s strategic partnership with Chinese online insurance company ZhongAn to showcase the company’s growing insurtech prowess to scale innovation in digital insurance in April 2019. It was essential to set the stage early in the year to attract like-minded partners in the digital ecosystem.

Subsequent releases built on showcasing Income’s growing digital capabilities and innovations to enhance customers’ access to insurance through industry-first products and best-in-class partnerships. For example, the announcements for the launch of Online Life and AskSage, and the partnership with Grab for Critical Illness: Pay Per Trip. These media efforts culminated in successful thought-leadership profile stories with Income’s chief digital officer, Peter Tay, covered by The Business Times and The Straits Times respectively. The stories detail Income’s digital transformation journey, and the value of its products in relations to the future of insurance. Also, through strategic usage of keywords in the company's press materials and communications efforts, Income managed to grow its digital salience within the media.

2. Creative media kits and influencer engagement:

To reach digital-first consumers and highlight the lifestyle appeal of its insurance product, Income sent creative media kits to 20 selected lifestyle and travel journalists and influencers for the launch of Pinfare. This generated significant organic social media content and buzz. The activation was also accompanied by a user journey infographic to simplify the understanding of the product and its usage.

3. Media round-table with Income CEO Income:

Income also organised separate fireside chats between its new CEO, Andrew Yeo, and the editorial teams from SPH and Mediacorp. These sessions allowed reporters to gain a greater understanding of Income’s digital and innovation efforts in an informal, off-the-record setting, while helping Income seed the stories the company aims to tell.

Around 17 key editors and reporters from both media groups participated in the sessions. This resulted in two stories highlighting Income’s innovative insurance solutions published to date – in Lianhe Zaobao and CNA Online.

4. Amplification through owned media platforms:

Media and influencers outreach efforts were amplified through LinkedIn for further brand building and positioning. Income curated consistent content to share insights, highlight collaborations, achievements, and thought leadership, and proceeded to share the content through its corporate LinkedIn account, and the accounts of its spokespeople. A constant momentum of buzz was also maintained to create awareness and excitement amongst staff via Income’s intranet news portal, Orange Beats, to cultivate staff advocates.

In addition to media announcements that were repurposed on Orange Beats, staff and C-suite who were involved in key innovations and digitisation initiatives were showcased through interviews on the portal to generate further staff interest and buy-in amongst staff. Video and graphical assets were also produced to add to the media mix to generate greater interest.

5. Activation:

Income organised events together for different stakeholders, who were the amplifiers, to experience its digital transformation. These included annual events such as FutureX, a programme to give university students the opportunity to solve real-life insurance challenges, and Innovfest, a showcase of the latest in technology that is shaping today’s financial services industry. Income also participated in the Singapore Fintech Festival for the first time in 2019 with a groundbreaking micro-insurance product that garnered great interest from industry professionals.

Results

Income played to the current media landscape by leveraging a targeted approach to engage press at a strategic level with well-curated and timed public and business impact story pitches, key executive profiling, and valuing quality coverage over quantity. The PR approach went well beyond garnering media amplification to meet its desired objectives by its targeted stakeholders.

This ultimately resulted in enhanced public visibility. The number of articles that carried Income’s digital transformation and innovation narratives increased by almost five times from 2017 to 2019, from only 32 articles in 2017 to 171 in 2019.

A reputation audit at the end of 2019 showed that between 2017 and 2019, Income’s key message resonance for "Industry thought leadership" and "Innovative insurer" collectively increased from 56% to 90%. This is a sign that Income's increased focus on building its brand association with being a digital and innovative insurer has achieved results across the media.

The reputation audit also noted a growing salience of digital transformation in Income’s reputation. This was the result of strategic inclusion of keywords in its press materials and communications efforts. By 2019, Income’s digital transformation had taken centre stage, and it is reflected in what it has captured across key media channels.

From working with ZhongAn, to partnering Grab Insure, Skyscanner and automotive marketplace Carro, Income is now gaining recognition with best-in-class partnerships to bring cutting-edge insurance innovations to the market. The brand was also chosen by GovTech to be the first private organisation to pilot the use of SingPass mobile on its customer portal as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation push.

Join us on week-long journey at PR Asia 2020 as we delve into topics such as diversity, cancel culture, future of PR, PR with a purpose and many others from 8 to 11 December. Sign up here!

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