Working in PR for more than a decade, I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few ideas of what’s interesting and newsworthy…and what’s not. I’ve shared the stories of brands like Purina (who doesn’t love puppies?), Lindt (chocolate is indisputably delicious) and MIT (smarties are always interesting).
When I joined The Zebra, I quickly realized that most everyone agrees that car insurance isn’t exactly a cocktail party conversation starter. But despite the lack of curb appeal, the stories I get to tell on behalf of The Zebra are actually pretty intriguing because we investigate little known clues and factors that affect what millions of Americans pay for car insurance each year.
A flagship report
In 2016, back when The Zebra was in its early startup phase, the communications team knew that our company held valuable research and information about what was happening in the industry, and that it was helpful news for journalists to share with their readers and viewers. From there, the idea for a flagship piece of research was born, and the first State of Auto Insurance Report was published. Now, we publish the report annually, and examine what’s going on with car insurance prices in every single United States ZIP code — more than 35,000 of them.
The report’s data has been cited in publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports and locally on broadcast stations in cities around the country like Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans and even on the floor of the United States Congress!
You might wonder, how does such a big project come together?
From numbers to actionable insights
It starts with the numbers. Our engineers have built tools that pull rate information from state filings. This information is publicly-available because insurance companies have to get rates approved by regulators in states where they operate. From there, our data analysts crunch the numbers and help bring stories to life from what they’re seeing.
Next stop is our content team. As writers, their craft is getting people like you and me to understand what’s important and the why behind the numbers. From there, our talented designers create an entire mini website for the report, illustrations and layout for a 50-page report — including maps, charts and graphs of the data, — and, of course, matching graphics for us to share on our social media accounts and with reporters who are curious. After that, our engineers build and deploy the mini website, and then we can officially launch!
Getting the word out
And finally, my communications team is the last stop in this stunning display of teamwork. Because we want to get information out there that’s relevant to as many viewers as possible, we pull the local rate information in the top 100 cities (by population) in the country. We share these numbers with local press in each location — newspaper reporters, radio stations and, of course, broadcast news. We offer interviews to explain the “why” behind rates increasing or decreasing since the prior year and offer tips to save money. Meanwhile, our social media feeds are full of bite-sized tidbits of information too, such as where we saw the wildest swings, exactly how much more you save in insurance if you buy a used car instead of a new one and what bad behavior on the road will cost you the most money when your insurance company finds out.
The result of this labor of love is hundreds of different news articles, broadcast TV segments and social media posts spreading around the world. While it’s not quite as delicious as a chocolate truffle, it’s pretty sweet to have the satisfaction of knowing that drivers have more insight into their financial life and some clear steps towards empowering them to make smart decisions.