Meeting #1: PR Guy and Social Media Guru at Humongous Life Insurance

Part one in a three-part series: Who says large insurance companies haven’t embraced social media in meaningful ways?

(Man who may or may not be a genuine hipster, leaning against what may or may not be an insurance building. Photo credit: Jurijs Korjakins.)


Ed (the PR Guy): Hey, come in, man, you’re the new Social Media guy, right? Steve, right? Or no, no, I heard you changed your name to Nik?

Nik: Well, yeah, I just thought it would be best — Steve the Social Media Guru, Steve the Social Media Maven, Steve the Social Media Swami, whatever, I’ve just become so sick of that nonsense, I never called myself any of those things, so I figured I’d just give myself a new name. I mean, like, I’m new here, anyway, so people can certainly learn to call me Nik, right?

Ed: But it’s like Nik, right? Without the “c”? Still kind of pretentious, huh?

Nik: Well, I don’t know, just a nickname I had in college… Just hoping it would work here…

Ed: Hey, man, I’m sure it will. We’re friendly people. Anyways, I’m just Ed. I guess you could say “PR Pro” if not a Guru or a Maven or a, what, Swami, whatever… Anyways, why are we meeting? I mean, you’re the Guru; what could you possibly need from me?

Nik: Well, you know, Ed — and thanks much for the meeting — I’m new here at Humongous Life Insurance, I just wanted to get some sense of the, uh, sensitivity, about social here and I figured who better to help me with that than you? I mean, it’s not like I can get a meeting, you know, with Mr. Big?

Ed: Neddie? OMG, Neddie loves Social Media, talks about it all the time. Crucially and critically important for us, one of my PERSONAL priorities as CEO, blah, blah, blah …

Nik: Well, yeah, I heard that, so I thought…

Ed: Hey, cool. It’s CRUCIAL, but that’s just why you can’t, uh, screw it up. Be out there, like Big Time, that’s what Neddie wants, but not to get really noticed, you know?

Nik: But, isn’t…?

Ed: Look, what have you got? Whaddayouwanna do?

Nik: OK, Ed, first thing on my list is a series of posts about our products. You know, Variable Universal Life vs. Whole Life? Why you need Long Term Care Insurance. A couple or more of these a week or so…

Ed: Rik, it’s Rik, right?

Nik: Well, no, it’s NIK. Without the “c” remember…

Ed: Nik, of course. But are you freakin’ kiddin’ me? Product posts? Who the hell wants to read stuff like that on Facebook? I mean my kids, my grandkids are on FB all day, they’re not gonna look at stuff like that…

Nik: Well, yeah, your grandkids are, like, teenagers, right? Not exactly our demographic. I’ve got to do something relevant to the business — maybe I can’t not sell the products but I can at least sell the idea of what we sell… And I’m just thinking of links to pre-existing content on the Web site, driving traffic to the site…

Ed: Cool, Rik, cool, I get it. But have you actually seen that stuff?: Two thirds a page of content and then two full pages of caveats, courtesy of the Gonzo Redhead in charge of Compliance? That’s what you want to send people to?  Have you thought about rewriting the stuff, at least? No, sorry, that’s no good; you’d still have to get it through Compliance and she’d probably see that they add another page of caveats just to mess with you…

Nik: OK, well, my second idea was, Women’s History Month is coming up in a couple of weeks and I thought we might do a contest?

Ed: Contest? Did you say CONTEST? Rik? Do you not have any idea how Legal will rake you over the coals on contest rules? Jeesh, talk about caveats, they’re worse than Redhead.

Nik: It’s Nik and what’s the problem? It’s not until March…

Ed: Oh, yeah, I’m sure you can get your contest rules by March. Not sure March of what year…

Nik: OK, what if we don’t do it as a contest, but just as a vote, you know, a vote once a day for your favorite woman in history?

Ed: Like who? Dorothy Day, that fucking Communist Catholic? Or, whatshername, the Socialist? Or the one who was Pink, and not the good Pink, but Pinko? Or the abortion woman, who I’m pretty sure was a Communist, too?  Rik, you can’t get us into stuff like this, Neddie’d have a cow. Can’t you just round up a bunch of some women who’ve rescued cats and dogs and stuff or knitted mittens for charity?

Nik: It’s Nik, Ed, and it’s Women’s History Month, not let’s celebrate Kindly Women Month. OK, fine, we’re really not getting anywhere here, ED.

Ed: Hey, look, NIK, I’m not looking to slow you down. You’re the Guru here, and me, hell, I’m Liberty Hall incarnate. What else have you got?

Nik: Oh, this isn’t content really, but I got this request from the Insurance Innovation Reporter,, to do an interview about our success onTwitter …

Ed: That rag? Are you kidding? They got a guy doing blog posts for them, worked here for years, then he turns around and makes a nasty plug at Neddie in one of his posts. No way, Jose. (Not that Neddie was bright enough to see it, just between us girls…)

Nik: OK, well, fine I guess, so no interview. We do have this photo of a litter of kittens and the mother…

Ed: Rik, now you’re talking, Humongous Life has nothing against kittens, we got nothing against cats. But what kind of kittens? They’re not all black, or all white, are they?

Nik: No, they’re a litter, so I mean, there are black ones, white ones, and grey ones, spotted ones… Good old American Shorthair kittens.

Ed: Grey? That’s good, but just American? Couldn’t you get some, I don’t know, Siamese kittens in there for Diversity and Inclusion?

Nik:  Ed, it’s a picture and the cat didn’t have any Siamese kittens…

Ed: Well, look, Nik, you’ve got that design guy, Photoshop guy, right? Can’t he just Photoshop some Siamese in there?

Nik: Ed, this has been great. Thanks so much for meeting with me. I’ll definitely talk to the Photoshop guy and see what he can do. Thanks again, I better go… Bye.

One week later: Facebook post of assorted kittens and Mom with badly (purposely badly?) Photoshopped Persian cat.

Ed: Holy shit, did you see what our idiot Guru did? Put an Iranian in the kitty post…

Kenneth Hittel // Ken Hittel is currently Digital Strategy Advisor on the board of advisors to FairWinds Partners, a Domain Name Strategy and Services provider. Prior to joining the FairWinds board, Ken worked in a variety of positions at New York Life Insurance Company for more than 20 years, the last 12 of which involved running the Corporate Internet Dept., responsible for the Company’s Digital Strategy, its Web sites, online lead generation programs, and its portfolio of mobile and Social Media presences. Ken has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Political Science and a M.A. in philosophy and Economics from the Graduate Faculty of the New School University. Follow him on Twitter: @khittel or email him at

Comments (4)

    • Of course my long experience at New York Life influenced the piece.
      However, I can assure you that I also spent years with colleagues from many similar peer companies and my experience with them was very little different, in fact, many of the individual personality quirks displayed in this post were from people other than New York Life. The point of the piece is that the obstructionism and risk avoidance seems to me to be characteristic of the industry including but not exclusively New York Life.

  1. Ken, GREAT WRITING! So spot on. I startled someone when I burst out laughing at “Ed, it’s a picture and the cat didn’t have any Siamese kittens…” Of course that was after a series of chuckles. Thanks, Ken. I needed that today. And I think people out there, the non-industry policy holder folks, would find this really funny – the lighter side of the #malepaleandstale, compliance-driven, over-regulated insurance company. It’s hilarious. Let’s make a viral video of this!?!?

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